Review & Track Premiere: Solace, The Brink

solace the brink

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Waste People’ from Solace’s The Brink. Album is out Dec. 13 on Blues Funeral Recordings and available to preorder here.]

You never know with Solace. Like the persistent radiation emanating from a hyperpolluted Jersey Shore superfund site, they might have a half-life of 50,000 years, but there are times when it seems like it’ll be at least that long before they get their due. But you never know. In 2010, when the Long Branch, NJ, five-piece returned after seven years with A.D. (review here) on Small Stone Records — their third LP and follow-up to 2003’s 13 (discussed here) as well as a 2005 split with Greatdayforup and the The Black Black EP in 2007 — I called it the beginning of a new era for the band. Even reading that back at the time, I can remember it was a fan’s wishful thinking, but neither did I imagine it would be nine years before they put out a fourth album, or that they’d do so with three-fifths of an entirely new lineup, rebuilt around guitarists Justin Daniels and band founder Tommy Southard.

Yet, The Brink emerges with a title that seems self-aware in identifying the place Solace have dwelled since even before the release of their debut, Further, in 2000, right on the sharpest corner, of the unknown, on the proverbial edge itself. You never know with Solace. Whether the whole thing’s about to fly apart. Whether the release date is going to get pushed back. Whether this is going to be the last time you see them. Whether they might finally get some inkling of the recognition they’ve long since deserved. Imagine a 2001 with Solace touring heavy in support of the MeteorCity release of Further. Maybe they get picked up by Atlantic for the follow-up. Maybe they get one song on the radio. Maybe there’s a video. Maybe the tours get bigger. Maybe they do Ozzfest the next year or for the second record. Maybe their crowds get bigger, the venues get bigger. Maybe Solace become the band Atlantic wanted the Melvins to be, having an influence over the wider sphere of heavy rock than even they could’ve imagined.

As a Solace fan, I genuinely think the world would be a better place if that had happened.

Understand, Solace aren’t just the best at what they do. They’re it at what they do. They have been and they remain equal parts vital and dangerous. There’s no one else who can ride a heavy rock groove, lock in a righteous doom riff en route to a shredding solo, blaze through hardcore punk, metal and classic ’70s vibes all while still conjuring memorable songs and melodies at the level Solace have done throughout their career and continue to do on The Brink. The album — which with issue through Blues Funeral Recordings reunites them with MeteorCity founder Jadd Shickler — runs 11 tracks and an utterly unmanageable 67 minutes. It is too long for a modern listener’s attention span by at least 20 minutes, but it’s also very clearly a band laying it all on the line. Is this the last Solace record? One final burst before they cross the brink into oblivion? You never know, but even with the possibility, they’re obviously not taking the chance of leaving anything unsaid, even if that means they’re saying everything while they can.

New vocalist Justin Goins has been with Solace at least four years now and unquestionably has the biggest task before him in replacing original singer Jason — who is probably the person most committed to only using his first name I’ve ever encountered; I saw his last name once and can’t remember it, but it wasn’t that weird — but Goins gives a performance laced with potential, fits well in the band both in his voice and work on keyboard as he shows on the could’ve-closed nine-minute title-track and works in a similar-enough style that from opener “Breaker of the Way” onward, Solace never cease to sound like Solace. With full tones behind him from SouthardDaniels and bassist Mike Sica (who fills the special-order-sized shoes of Rob Hultz) set to the fervent push of Tommy Gitlan on drums, Goins makes the most of hooks in second cut “Desert Coffin,” “Waste People,” “The Light is a Lie,” and the prior-issued single “Bird of Ill-Omen” (review here) to give listeners a marker to follow on the outward, intense path The Brink follows, progressive and linear, downward and outward as it is.

solace

But if time or cumulative beer intake have dulled Solace‘s ferocity at all, The Brink doesn’t show it. Even rockers like “Dead Sailor’s Dream” or “Crushing Black” play out through headspinning turns and verses that seem to stretch out one into the next. There’s structure there, a plan at work. The songs are crafted and have the carefully mixed layers to prove it. But the plan is chaos, and chaos is what it sounds like. Maybe Solace are in control of it, but they’ve almost never been so much so as to put out a record every couple years, hit the road and take their band to the “next level” that would seem to have been waiting for them 15 years ago. Is The Brink too little too late? You never know, but for what it’s worth, nothing about the album is too little, from its runtime to the largesse of sound to the front-to-back quality of the material and its delivery.

They wisely save a few tricks for later in the run to change things up, bringing in Daniels on vocals for the brief, acoustic-led “Shallows Fade” ahead of “The Brink” itself, which has a more severe atmosphere bolstered by the cut before it, and then are off at a sprint for the penultimate “Until the Last Dog is Hung” — not quite as I-wanna-see-you-tear-shit-up as A.D.‘s hardcore paean “The Skull of the Head of a Man,” but not far off either — before rounding out with “Dead Sailor’s Reprise,” which indeed answers back to “Dead Sailor’s Dream” and, unlike most reprisals, is actually longer than the piece it’s building from, repeating the line, “Down where dead men go” (see also the cover art), before fading itself out and then returning with a storm-backed acoustic guitar line that plays out the riff of the original.

At that point it has been a long day’s journey since the bounding initial riff of “Breaker of the Way,” but perhaps the most staggering aspect of The Brink is how much it is Solace. One assumes if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t exist. It’s not like Solace were under a contract and needed to get a record out. It’s not like they had to do it for cash. It may be that the urgency of expression here derives from the thought that this might actually be it for them, and yet the balance they set that against is coming across as utterly refreshed in their most forward position — i.e. the vocals — and in the rhythm section backing their signature ace riffs and leads. What the hell is an audience supposed to make of that? Band comes back after nine years for what might be one more blowout and has the energy of a debut album? How is that even fair? What do you do with that?

My best guess is appreciate it for what it is. Because it’s so long, and because it’s so winding in its progression, and because there’s just so much to dig into across its span, it’ll be a while before The Brink really settles in on those who properly take it on. Nine months, maybe a year, but time in any case. For all the immediacy of their work, Solace demand that time. But these tracks, their peaks and valleys, their shove and rest, their melody and their motion, earn it, too. But the only way to take The Brink is on its face. If you think about where Solace have come from, or where they might go from here, what their future will be — Southard recently said he was “retired” from playing local shows, presumably relegating the band to fest appearances and other one-offs that might come up — your head will surely explode. Accept it. You never know with Solace. You never know. So all you can do is embrace what’s there on its own level or walk away, and if walk away, you’re missing out.

For all the changes The Brink brings about — don’t forget, more than half this band has never played on a Solace record before and we’re more than 20 years out from the group’s first release — its identity is unquestionable. Unmistakable. Unstoppable? You never know.

Solace on Thee Facebooks

The Brink at Blues Funeral Recordings Bandcamp

Blues Funeral Recordings on Thee Facebooks

Blues Funeral Recordings website

Tags: , , , , ,

4 Responses to “Review & Track Premiere: Solace, The Brink

  1. StevhanTI says:

    Listening the song, goosebumps all over… Solace are back, may the world not care as ever before but those who know, know.

  2. jose humberto says:

    Excellent , and the best is that is not taking fooooooreeeeeeverrrr like other releases

    :)

Leave a Reply