Vera : Polish-based Metal Mind Productions re-releases a large number of metal classics with some bonus material. This month 'Through The Darkest Hour' and 'Downfall', respectively the third and the fourth album of the American doom formation Solitude Aeturnus, have this honour. The albums are distributed on two thousand copies in a beautiful digipack with a biography of the band, as well as personal liner notes of guitarist John Perez about the time when the album was originally recorded. Bonus tracks come from Solitude Aeturnus' most recent DVD, recorded in Poland in February 2007.
'Downfall' is the fourth album, originally released in 1996. After the successful 'Through The Darkest Hour' which was followed by touring through the United States (with Mercyful Fate) and Europe, the band took a break and entered the studio again not earlier than 1996, this time in Dallas (Texas). Afterwards they were very disappointed about these recordings. The album is now re-mastered in the Nomad Studios by contemporary guitarist Steve Moseley, but according to Perez things cannot be solved by re-mastering only. The band looks back at this album with mixed feelings, a kind of love/hate relationship. Maybe it was due to the circumstances in which this album was recorded. 'Downfall' is recorded in parts every evening after a hard day job for every member. In addition problems with bassist Lyle Steadham came to the surface during this process; he left the band after 'Downfall'. Their dissatisfaction was not caused by weaker songs, but only by the end result of the sound.
Well, reading all this, the sound turns out not that bad at all. Okay, 'Through The Darkest Hour' is better, yet Solitude Aeturnus presents itself as a first rate doom band on 'Downfall' as well. The first thing that leaps the eye is more piano. We hear it in the powerful opener 'Phantoms' and later on in 'Chapel Of Burning' where a few new elements loom up. The spatial 'Only This (And Nothing More)' leads us towards a first summit. 'Midnight Dreams' is very atmospheric, sung in a solemn, intense manner and slowly moving to a climax. The album has a downfall (hehe, sorry) during the weird 'Elysium' (St. Vitus on acid) and the pointless Christian Death cover 'Deathwish', but includes only highlights for the rest. In the latest songs 'Chapel Of Burning' and 'Concern' (totally written by singer Rob Lowe) the calm way of singing in more sensitive parts is very evocative of The Prophecy (yes, I know SA was first, but in 1996 I could not recognize The Prophecy in it). Moreover 'Concern' happens to be one of the real stunners of the record because of amazing vocals and guitar leads. Bonus material is a live performance of 'Phantoms' where guitar soloing sounds even chunkier. A fine occasion for those who got to know the band a bit later; they can complete their collection now.