This one almost slipped through the cracks into the murky, forbidding depths of the AMG promo sump, never to be seen or heard again. Yet salvaged it was, by me, and I deserve accolades and adoration for rescuing this platter from the cold fate of eternal obscurity. Soliloquium have an awkward name to spell and pronounce, but their music is anything but. They play a sadboy style of progressive doom death that borrows heavily from the likes of Katatonia, Rapture and Anathema, and they know how to bring the depressive thunder. Contemplations is their second full-length and the fact it had me scrambling to find their debut speaks to the impact of their music. Composed of just two members, Soliloquium have a lush, vibrant and full sound and use it paint the same depressive black and grey tapestries as their influences, and they do it very well. Like the Bob Ross of despair, they put a little grave here, a mourning widow there, but never go too crazy with the Titanium White. Everything in balance and in the proper place, and that’s when art happens, you Philistines.
Opener “Chains” is a great case study into their sound, starting life with forlorn strumming which eventually morphs into a dissonant, jangled riff that feels threatening and madness inducing. Soon deep, guttural death vocals team with sweetly trilling leads that recall the might of Katatonia‘s Brave Murder Day, and from there it’s off to the doom death races. With an excellent sense of timing and pace, the dynamic duo twist and contort the song’s flow back and forth from heavy to tranquil, dragging you behind their bleak edifice until you’re bloody and despondent. It’s a beautiful song that conveys a lot of depressive pathos. Followup “Catharsis” is a return to the salad days of Rapture, with clean goth vocals reminiscent of Patrick Walker (ex-Warning, 40 Watt Sun) trading blows with death croaks as those gorgeous leads twirl in the background. I kept asking myself how have I never heard of these guys before as the sheer quality washes over my simian tympanums like sweet, sweet ape gravy.
“22” is like the best Anathema song they never got around to writing, capable of floating along on Weather Systems while also fitting on a late period Tiamat opus. It’s just a gorgeous song dripping with feeling and pristine goth sensibilities. It’s also one of the rare compositions I wish was twice as long as it is. It segues smoothly into the graceful, sedate guitar-work of “For the Accursed” which incorporates post-rock and post-metal influences smartly to keep the feels going as the heaviness factor slowly elevates. The album closes with the band’s magnum opus, “Wanderlust,” which brings all their elements into sharper focus while elevating the heavy factor impressively. Black metal influences ooze forth, spilling caustic ichor across the pristine harmonies, transforming them into something more unpredictable and dangerous. It’s a big song to end a huge album and it left me craving more.
At 49 minutes, Contemplations is a concise and effortless listening experience. The knocks against it are two-fold and relatively minor. Worthwhile instrumental “Streetlights” acts like a mood break of sorts, taking me out of the hypnotic trance the album otherwise creates, and “Unfulfilling Prophecy” is a bit awkward in construction, veering from great moments to more generic ones.
Stefan Nordström handles both vocals and guitar and knocks it way out of the park. His guitar-work is first-rate and really drills deep into the soul of a chronic sadboy fan like myself. I hear all the genre greats reflected in his playing but his riffs never feel like pale imitations or tired retreading. His leads pop and his harmonies soar, captivating the ear and mind. He’s quite versatile as a vocalist as well, managing effective death roars and blackened rasps too. Cleans are handled by Mikko Heikkilä (ex-Sinamore, Black Sun Aeon) who does a fine job as always. Jonas Bergkvist handles bass duty well, and drums were apparently handled by studio kit man, Mike Watts. The music is uniformly impressive and engaging and I was replaying the album the very second it ended.
Contemplations does a great job of scratching my near insatiable itch for depressive and bleak music. If you, like me, curse the day Rapture broke up, and wish Anathema didn’t became an indie pop act, Soliloquium will sound like manna sent from the darkest realms to nourish your black heart. Get this. Learn to spell this.