Last year Christian Alvestam (ex-Scar Symmetry, Torchbearer) and his Solution .45 project dropped the first installment of a double album that went by the name of Nightmares in the Waking State – Part I. As expected, it was grounded in the same metalcore-tinged melo-death Alvestam’s been associated with throughout his music career. It had a few strong highlights but as a whole it was nothing earth-shaking. Almost a year later he’s back with the second installment of his double creature feature, but should you care? Well yes, since this is a much more consistent, enjoyable ride with an unexpectedly ambitious prog side; at times almost sounding like a Dan Swanö melo-death project rather than the usual regurgitated Soilwork or Scar Symmetry fluff. Since it’s so much better than Part I, does that make it the Use Your Illusion II of melo-death? Was that title already taken by Disc II of Songs From the North? I can’t keep this stuff straight anymore because math is hard.

Numerology woes aside, Nightmares in the Waking State – Part II continues the central story started in Part I, but since I didn’t get lyrics with the promo, I have no idea what it’s all about, though a good guess would be nightmares. Plot ignorance won’t get in the way of enjoying the music however, which feels a lot more inspired and adventurous overall. After a pompous, powerweenie  intro, “The Faint Pulse of Life” comes at you like a rampaging beast with heavy, vaguely core-ish riffs battering away as Alvestam provides some very Mikael Stanne-like death rasps. The change up comes at chorus time where he remains in death mode rather than opting for his usual soaring cleans, yet it’s still very memorable and catchy. Nicely played, that. Follow up “Mind Mutation” also throws some curveballs into the basic Solution .45 template by incorporating power metal guitar and keyboard wankery that would fit in on a Kamelot opus. Alvestam’s singing makes it’s first appearance and it’s solid as always and a nice shift from the gruntage.

Built on Sand” is another odd duck, adopting a herky-jerky prog style that feels like something you’d get on a Witherscape album. It’s all over the place but somehow manages to connect on the first spin and Alvestam outdoes himself with his harsh-to-clean vocal switcheroos. The frantic and jangled riff-work is interesting, the solos are beautiful and the song feels like a big leap forward for Solution .45. Other highlights include the melodic sappiness of “Inescapable Dream” that sticks to you like cotton candy in August; the strange sojourn into Within Temptation goth-symphonics on “What Turns the Wheels” and the slightly sadboy “Heavy Lies the Crown.”


All the songs are good and several are actually quite great. That’s in stark contrast to the Part I which felt filler heavy. So Impressed was I with this album, that I started to second guess my reaction to Part I and went back to give it a another try. Sadly, my opinion stands. Alvestam seriously back-loaded Part II with the top-shelf material. This is like moving “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry” from Use Your Illusion I and over to II, but I digress.

Alvestam delivers one of his best performances, showcasing just how well he can sing when he puts his mind to it. He’s one of the most versatile vocalists in metal and that’s why it took 2 dudes to replace him when he left Scar Symmetry. Both his melodic singing and death roars are in peak condition and he goes extra brootal at times for added impact. As good as he is, I was most impressed with the guitar pyrotechnics of Jani Stefanovic and Patrik Gardberg. This batch of tunes feels less tightly structured, giving them greater freedom to explore the musical sandbox and try new things. Their impressive noodling and oddball prog ideas offset the more straightforward melo-death moments and make for a much more unpredictable and rewarding listen.

I didn’t have great expectations for this but ended up really enjoying it. I’ll likely take the best parts of Part I and move them over to Part II for one kick ass playlist, and I’m left to wonder why Alvestam didn’t do something similar when he was writing and recording these platters. Regardless, Part II is definitely a big step up and one of the best things he’s done since leaving Scar Symmetry. Well worth hearing.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AMF Records
Releases Worldwide: August 29th, 2016

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  • Reese Burns

    Alvestam’s good, but Speed Strid is still my favourite melodeath singer of all time. If the stars aligned Alvestam would have a guest spot on the next Soilwork album or vice-versa.

    • Syn

      Well Christian was pretty much always great and quite versatile with his voice. Strid as well. Although for me Mike Semesky kicks all of their butts.

      • The Unicorn

        Christian is like the George Michaels of metal.

  • mindbleach

    Might actually listen to this one then, Alvestam alone wasn’t enough to elevate their first two albums for me whereas SS’s latest is really good.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Name-dropping Witherscape kinda had a reversal effect in that rather than me wanting to listen to this album more, I just want to go spend more time enjoying Witherscape, who are undoubtedly better at sounding like Witherscape than Solution 45 ever will be.

  • The Unicorn

    Alvestam has really disappointed me for awhile, just like Soilwork fell down the hole to shit. 1st Sol.45 was pretty damn good, but I miss the lush days of yore with Scar Symmetry. That shit was untouchable when he was at the helm. Nonetheless, his pipes are superb. One of the best metal vocalists of our day.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      Where did Soilwork lose you? I’ve always been a fan, but I’ve think their recent stuff has been stronger than ever.

      • The Unicorn

        I have to be very honest, “Natural Born Chaos” was for me their *Black* album. I love it, but it was the end.

        • Dr. Wvrm

          Aw man. I have less affinity for their mid-00’s stuff past Figure Number Five, but their last two have been top-notch stuff. Oh well, I guess Reese and I will keep working on our Soilwork tribute band, Late for Dinner, Early for Breakfast, all alone

          • Reese Burns

            Look for our debut coming next summer.

        • brklyner

          Same here. By the time I heard Figure Number Five I completely gave up on them, and it sounds like that might have been a mistake. I’ll have to check out their more recent output.

      • I feel the same. I truly dig last three records.

  • Elton Chagas

    Damn, I miss Unmoored. I think it was one of his best works besides Scar Symmetry. Even though I like Solution .45, it just sounds too average now.

    • Syn

      I agree with pretty much everything said here.

    • That one Unmoored record I have is great, I’m the only one I know who’s even heard of it! Also like the Miseration albums he did.

      • I’m going to say “Indefinite Soul Extension”. It’s the band’s third album and their best.

        Meanwhile they’ve been working on a fourth album, which they might finish sooner if Alvestam was in fewer bands inferior to Unmoored.

  • Syn

    This just isn’t working for me. Both parts. To me it sounds exactly like last Scar Symmetry did, and honestly it’s not even a compliment since I feel like both bands went way too deep into this whole “progressive” sound. SS were always playing with progressive elements (and S.45 on Aeons too), but it never felt like that was the main thing to their sound. Now it feels to me that’s all there is. Christian used to be great at creating nice vocal lines with both growls and cleans and the way they’d complement each other and cleans always had great melodies. This is just… like Elton said: it’s just average. And forgettable. I think I’ve already said on m-fi forums, I’ve listened to the part one like five or six times and I still can’t remember a single melody from it. I did not give as many tries with part two, but from what I’ve heard it’s not all that better. But honestly, after 2-3 spins, I can’t even remember.

    And this is coming from a guy who literally almost cried when it was announced that Christian was leaving Scar Symmetry.

    • Matthew

      I think both parts are good… Part I has a couple of very memorable vocal lines in my humble opinion. For example: Winning where Losing is all – this chorus is as great and memorable as any chorus from Holographic Universe (which I love and is still my favourite SS album), or right before that one you have Bleed Heavens Dry. Targenting Blaze maybe? Also Great. There are tons of inspiring stuff in here. If you don’t recognize memorable moments in here, I honestly want to know what you usually listen to… Part II is more of a thing in which you really have to put time into, since it’s not all that accessible, but I’d say it’s just a different kind of listening experience. I have no problem with the progressive elements as I always thought that they were the thing that set SS and Solution apart from other bands of the genre and were most of the fun when listening to them. AND: The last 2 Sol.45 albums sound DIFFERENT to Scar’s Singularity Phase I (which I do also love) in SO MANY WAYS (Mood, Guitar work, Arrangements, Soil etc.)… But well, I think flavors are different so it’s all okay :D

  • Meat Tornado

    Good to hear this one is better. I was also disappointed by Part I.

    • Meat Tornado

      Though from all the praise, I am curious as to the 3.5?

      One of these days I’d like to see the rating scale paired with albums you believe to be at that score.

  • Adjudant

    Concept albums MUST have decipherable lyrics

  • Brooks Ploskina

    This is one of top picks of 2016! Great review!