If there is one thing that can be said about Solace of Requiem, it’s that these guys have yet to pick a style and run with it. Comparing their albums to one another is like comparing metal to sushi. However, their lack of staleness is breath of fresh air (or in this case “putridity?”). Appearing on the scene in 2004 with their self-titled debut of Morbid Angel worship, these guys stuck to the time-tested formula of old-school death metal; mean, fast, and in-your-face. From there they expanded that style by introducing some groove and thrashier elements on Utopia Reborn before incorporating a black-infused tech death approach on their third release, The Great Awakening. Founder/songwriter/bassist/vocalist Jeff Sumrell has spent years trying to hone the SOR formula and it seemed he would never be satisfied. While he keeps Casting Ruin in the same vein and style as The Great Awakening, it showcases improved song writing, highly calculated and executed performances, better album fluidity, and polished production. Have Solace of Requiem finally found their home in the tech death world? Can there be a worse video than their one for “Red Sea?”
While I won’t go so far as to answer with a definite “yes” to all these questions, it’s apparent in the opening seconds of “Defiling the Spectrum” that Solace of Requiem mean business. Utilizing a binaural recording style, Casting Ruin has a lot of left-channel/right-channel guitar absurdity going on. Headphones in place, Richard Gulczynski’s Origin-esque barrage of guitar squeals and complicated fretboard meandering will turn your skull into a pinball machine. The steel riffs of “Defiling the Spectrum,” “Casting Ruin,” “Wading into Mire” and “Pools of Ablation” knock from one ear to the other and turn your brains to well shaken mush.
Along with the aforementioned Origin influences, SOR utilizes Aborted aggressiveness in tracks like “Song of Shards” and Panzerchrist/Aborted elements in the intro of the stunningly diverse “Heaving Bile and Ash.” Infused within the tech deathery is a synthy symphonic black metal component that casts a pleasing darkness over the album. This atmosphere does wonders for melodic passages that include the beautiful music box intro of “Wading into Mire,” the doomy drudgery midway through “Heaving Bile and Ash,” and the euphoric acoustic guitar in the closing instrumental, “Bio-Alchemy.” Within all the chaos, the songs remain well-structured and in control with the help of drummer, Dave Tedesco. The album is worth the listen just to hear Dave’s insane rolls, bass blasts and his aggressive – yet gentle – approach to slower passages. Checkout his drum work during the neck-breaking riffs and emotional melodies of “Pools of Ablation,” and his nifty drum outro on “”Wading into Mire.”
Throughout the album, Jeff delivers a variety of vocal styles ranging from a Satyricon-like shriek to a controlled Dissection-influenced growl to a brutal death growl (a la Origin). Jeff’s ability to weave these different vocal deliveries into the ever-changing mood of the songs pulls all the elements of Casting Ruin together. Though he steps out of his comfort zone compared to past releases, he fucking nails it here.
One of the issues I have with Casting Ruin is low bass mix. Past SOR albums have a big bass presence and songs like “Bio-Alchemy” would have really benefited from a better mix. SOR chose to go with a more trebly black metal mix on Casting Ruin rather than the bass-heavy mix of traditional death metal and while it’s still heavy, this recording choice stifles the potential nut-crushing it could have induced. Thankfully, the drums make a huge contribution in keeping the brutality intact. Along the same lines, the unique binaural recording style will definitely make your headphones and eardrums giddy, but listening to Casting Ruin on a standard stereo robs it of its quality and subtleties. No matter how loud I cranked this album, my cheap car and home stereos left it sounding flat.
Though Casting Ruin is not up to par with some of the other tech death releases this year, and while it took a few listens to absorb it, I really enjoyed this album. It probably won’t make it on my end of the year list but Solace of Requiem have come a long way in finding themselves and I will definitely be spinning this for some time.