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Review: Solstice - White Horse Hill
White Horse Hill

Label: Independent
Year released: 2018
Duration: 46:54
Tracks: 7
Genre: Doom Metal

Rating: 5/5

Review online: March 6, 2018
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
White Horse Hill

Rated 4.35/5 (86.92%) (26 Votes)

There were times I never thought I would see this release. Solstice have gone twenty years since their last full-length release. Fans have had to feed on an unending stream of splits, compilations, demos, and boxed sets, with no sign of a real follow-up to the revered New Dark Age. Even the fine Death's Crown is Victory EP in 2013 – which showed a functioning band at work – only raised my hopes a little. After so long, I just didn't quite believe it would happen, but here at last we have White Horse Hill.

This is not even close to the same lineup that recorded decades ago, but Solstice has always been Rich Walker's love child, and his unique and unsurpassed riff wizardry sustains the band and blazes through this album like a midwinter bonfire. Solstice get classed as a Doom band, but really, after all this time, they mostly sound like themselves – big, powerful songs fueled by epic riffs, arcane lyrics, and that ineffable atmosphere of heathen pride and lost ages.

I was impressed with the compositions on Death's Crown is Victory, but the songs on this blow that EP away. The obvious time taken to get every song just right, polishing every part to the perfect shine, the perfect sound. The big moments sound huge, but the quieter pieces like "Beheld, A Man of Straw" and "For All Days, And for None" also ring with just the right degree of echo and reverb. The production is flawless, giving each and every sound just the right balance. The drum work by old hand Rick Budby is really stellar, and Rich's leads sound amazing. New singer Paul Kearns really steps up his game here. On the EP I thought his voice was strong but a bit too forceful, without enough dynamic. Here he just turns in an amazing performance, balancing power, delicacy, and nuance with startling dexterity.

This is everything I wanted from a new Solstice album, and much more than I thought I would ever get. It can't be easy getting back in the swing of an old band like this, trying to follow up a pair of albums that are so widely loved by such a cultish audience. There are a lot of ways this could have gone wrong, and only one way to go right: to just write and record a flawless fucking Solstice album. We can all bow down and be grateful, because that's exactly what they fucking did.

Other related information on the site
Review: Death's Crown Is Victory (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Lamentations (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Lamentations (2006 Re-issue) (reviewed by Ulysses)
Review: New Dark Age (reviewed by 4th Horseman)
Review: New Dark Age (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: New Dark Age (reviewed by Ulysses)
Review: White Horse Hill (reviewed by MetalMike)
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