Vader – Solitude in Madness Review

We all know that with great power comes great responsibility. Never is this more true than in reviewing. For example, the mighty Vader have carved a thirty year career from nuts and bolts brutality, and I’ve been following along every step of the way. In 2016 I gave a fledgling review of The Empire. In my inexperience, I awarded the album a glowing 4.0. In the years since, all joy has left me, and I can now see clearly that the record is a firm 3.0. Most critics of The Empire bemoaned a dearth of ferocity… On twelfth album Solitude in Madness, Poland’s most savage sons have made ready to meet the challenge. Contained within is a proving ground where mid-pace meets a bloody end at the hands of vociferiffs aplenty. Unfortunately, the ashes of good song writing can also be found amidst the corpse fires…

Vader‘s legendary status has been built on the bones of poseurs, past and present, and nothing about Solitude in Madness attempts to change that. This is a record borne aloft on the forge-winds of molten bullet belts. “Shock and Awe” does its talking with two firmly clenched fists. Ripping riffs ensure the incendiary opener bears all the necessary Vader hallmarks. “Into Oblivion” follows suit and the Gatling gun rhythms maintains the assault. And for a while, all is well. There’s a palpable air of the old school throughout the heavily thrash-inspired track list, and it affords the album no small amount of leather-clad legitimacy.

However, by the time “Despair” rolls around, it becomes clear that intent has begun to trump content. The song has the usual blasting identity, but at just over a minute in length, it feels like a sequence arbitrarily excised from another track. While The Empire may have lacked speed, it never wanted for good riffs. Unfortunately, Solitude in Madness is so preoccupied with pace, that it often forgoes the kind of writing that gave us De Profundis and Litany or modern classics like Welcome to the Morbid Reich. Some of the more developed cuts feel a little more robust. “Dancing in the Slaughterhouse” boasts a chunky breakdown and more than a nod to classic Sodom, while “And Satan Wept” is a death-thrash carnival. But after two dozen spins, it’s still a real struggle to retrieve each track from the pit of memory.

As ever, frontman Piotr Wiwczarek is the perpetual element in Vader‘s furnace. His obvious passion to play hard and fast is contagious, as evidenced in his blur of riffing and distinctive voice. Despite the band’s death metal pedigree, there’s an increasing focus on trad traits, particularly in the leads. Wiwczarek and guitarist Marek “Spider” Pajak litter the album with classic metal inspired solos. “Emptiness” and “Final Declaration” are made all the better for their heavy metal progressions and leads. These inclusions grant closer “Bones” some extra mileage but, ultimately, there just isn’t enough depth of writing to force the songs down my throat. The construction of classic tracks like “Wings,” “Xeper” or “Shadowfear”1 towers over the present penmanship. Even drummer James Stewart’s fluid profusion of blasts and fills can’t rescue Solitude in Madness from the clutches of homogeneity.

Vader are a constant to the death metal faithful. They seem to represent a sempiternal authority bent on outlasting the oceans. As such, I never imagined I’d see Vader fall into the ranks of just another old band churning out rote records. Although those days aren’t quite here yet, they suddenly appear closer than ever. For the die-hard fans, there’s plenty to enjoy on Solitude in Madness. However, no amount of adoration can conceal the fact that this material is fleeting. In run time and nutritional value. The ludicrous quality of Impressions in Blood through to Tibi et Igni is beginning to feel distant, but I refuse to believe that Vader don’t have another potential monster lurking in the tank. But it isn’t Solitude in Madness. Take it to the gym and test it on the iron. Just don’t be distressed to find that, somewhere along the line, you blacked out and put Litany on instead. Again.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 278 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Websites: vader-band.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/vader
Releases Worldwide: May 1st, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. “Blood of Kingu,” “The Crucified Ones,” “Sothis,” Reborn in Flames,” Dark Age,” “Chaos”… fuck me, Vader rip.
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