In the interests of full disclosure, I must confess that I think Delain, the Dutch symphonic metal band, is trash. Purest of Pain (PoP) is an offshoot featuring overlapping members which strips back the symphonic elements in favor of the dual-guitar theatrics loved by melodic death metal. I will, of course, divest the two groups given that PoP‘s first full-length album is primed for release and I am the nominated reviewer who will, of course, be perfectly objective1. Solipsis represents the culmination of three singles released over the past five years with a full repertoire of supporting tracks. Can it rise above my prejudices to forge a worthwhile experience?
My first substantive paragraph usually asks “what does this band sound like?” For Solipsis, the more appropriate question is “who do they sound like?” The answer is an emphatic Dark Tranquillity. I was immediately struck by similarities to the Gothenburg legends. Harmonized leads layer over down-tuned chugging with gurgled, yet oddly intelligible, growls. It’s a classic sound so I don’t want to linger over this description for long given that everyone knows it. To be fair to PoP they diversify this approach with a fairly strong streak of metalcore. Breakdowns feature though not to an annoying extent — in fact, they could be used more to confer a greater number of musical landmarks. Given this melodic death metal and metalcore crossover (more so than was already the case for 2000s metalcore) their sound also recalls to me Sylosis.
There are good moments synthesized from this. In particular, the 3 tracks from “Terra Nil” through “E.M.D.R.” incited my enthusiasm. “Terra Nil” features the record’s best climax as memorable vocals layer over a nifty solo and are repeated with increasing urgency, while “Noctambulist” is by far the most dynamic track; it strips back for a short interlude which both demonstrates moody characteristics absent elsewhere and also emphasizes the badass breakdown with which it’s followed. Lastly, “E.M.D.R.” is the most typical of the remainder of Solipsis but simply houses some of the slickest chord progressions and memorable melodies. It’s perhaps significant that this 14-minute run consists of the strongest concentration of metalcore influences. Using metalcore’s grooves and melodic simplicity, even beyond Gothenburg melodeath, encouraged me to remember and return more.
Alas, the demerits outweigh the advantages. Solipsis feels far too long, even if 51 minutes is rather reasonable in this day and age. It’s artificially extended by multiple songs which do little to distinguish themselves. Most feature similar melodies — hardly unknown within melodic death metal2 — similar tempos, the same down-tuned chugs and unvaried, rasped growls. Much of the record, therefore, blurs even if decent melodies are sprinkled throughout. It begs the question of why there are 14 tracks; “Truthseeker,” “Trial and Error,” “Phantom Limb” and the title track do nothing which isn’t done elsewhere and better. This is compounded by Superfluous Intro and Outro Syndrome. These total nearly 19 minutes which Solipsis would have been better off without.
I’ve taken flak in recent times for lumping praise on derivative albums. Howlin’ Sun proudly wore its ’60s rock influences on its sleeve, while Weedpecker are fairly similar to Elder (but the results are far superior, obviously). I maintain that these bands are still fusing varied sounds and producing dynamic music. This is simply not the case with PoP whose album is even closer to its influences and which largely blurs between tracks. My score may look harsh from the positives I’ve noted but I’ll not be back to this record even for those points. Outside of the aforementioned good streak, Solipsis is uninspired and lacks memorability. At least it’s better than Delain.