Why is everything in my November promo bin a part I or IV of something bigger? I’m starting to feel like I’m trapped at the Third-Tier Fantasy Fiction Fan Con and I’m dreading what lurks around the next corner. Will it be The Atomic Dragon Bosoms of Gefilte Pt. VII? The Purple Cloak of Chromatic Unicorn Fabulousness Pt. X? Can’t we just do one-off albums again, people? Phew, okay, now that my Astral Rage of Unihorns is under control again, here we have the long-awaited sophomore album by Solution .45. For those not up on their Swedish metalcore-tinged melo-death, this is the band started by Christian Alvestam after he left Scar Symmetry. As a fan of his work with the Symmetrical Ones, I enjoying his 2010 For Aeons Past debut due to the similarities to his former band and despite the core-ish tendencies at the root of the sound. Now he’s back with the first part of what will naturally be a double album (Pt II will drop sometime later). Why a double album? The usual story: band goes into writing mode, develops a shit-ton of music and can’t stand to waste one note of it (see Iron Maiden, really see Swallow the Sun). Is this another tragic example of ego above discretion and moderation? Let’s discuss.
Solution .45 traffics in the same sound and approach as Mercenary, Soilwork and of course, Scar Symmetry, while doing precious little to expand the scope of said style. Instead they focus on making it as punchy and catchy as they can while sprinkling in little elements of latter day Dark Tranquillity. When this all works, Nightmares is easy to digest and full of baited hooks waiting for an open mouth to snag. Opener “Wanderer From the Fold” is catchy in all the same ways as their last album was, with a more prevalent Dark Tranquillity undercurrent. The heaviness factor should be sufficient to offset the core-isms and it’s hard to dislike Christian’s excellent mix of clean singing, screaming and death roars. “Perfecting the Void” is the kind of song Scar Symmetry rolled out regularly and it works here too. It’s heavy and loaded with nasty death croaks but then explodes into a big, saccharine-sweet chorus that hooks you not matter how much you resist. The same goes for “Bleed Heavens Dry” and “Winning Where Losing is All” which both excel at this style, plying you angry, core-ish riffing and harsh vocals then smacking you with mega-melodic chorus breaks.
Unfortunately, the second half of Nightmares is significantly weaker with fewer standout moments, which is probably an ill omen for a double album. While “Targeting Blaze” is fairly interesting and uses a bit of electronica to shake things up, tracks like “Alter the Unbearable Weight of Nothing” and “Wield the Scepter” are overly generic mid-period Soilwork clones, and Christian’s emo-boy whining on the latter is quite annoying. The nearly twelve minute closer “I Nemesis” is better, but obviously very long in the tooth when it doesn’t need to be and though there are some nice moments, it’s not as effective as the album’s earlier material. Adding insult to injury, the sound is predictably brickwalled all to hell, with the guitars sounding very compressed and loud. I’ve certainly heard worse, but the mix doesn’t do the album any favors.
As with any Christian Alvestam project, you come for the vocals and stay for the melo-core. The man is gifted with a respectable death croak and he can certainly go screamo with anyone, but he can also sing much better than many vocalists in this genre. He sounds good on most of the songs, though his attempts at a more emo style fall flat. I appreciate his regular use of low-register grunts and at times he adopts a style very similar to Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity) which is always a good thing. The guitars are handled by Jani Stefanovic and newcomer Patrik Gardberg and they stay pretty close to the Scar Symmetry playbook with a series of thick, often staccato riffs. These get tedious over an album’s length but they do mix in some proggy touches, especially on “Altering the Unbearable.” It’s very clear they can play well, but a lot of what they do is very predictable and safe.
Nightmares in the Waking State Pt. I is not as memorable as For Aeons Past and lacks the same staying power, but when it’s catchy, it’s very catchy. Basically, this is half an album of quality music and I can only assume the other half will appear whenever Pt. II shows up. With so much time in the hopper lately ranting about album length, I’ll just leave you with that thought and go look for an extra short EP or something. Godspeed and go single!