I was excited about this one. You see, I am a huge fan for all things doomy and melancholic. I don’t mean in the Stoner sense of Doom Metal, but the European style. The masters are of course Paradise Lost, and then you have wonderful bands like My Dying Bride, early Anathema, Katatonia, and Insomnium. You getting my drift? The Death/Doom hybrid that has lots of melody, mainly from those forlorn and haunting guitar lines and the windswept, rain-soaked mix. Stockholm’s Soliloquium even name checks three of the bands mentioned above as influences.
From the get-go you know that you are going to get the beauty, the delicacy, the menace, the despair, and the bleakness that this genre is known for on Contemplations. ‘Chains’ kicks things off in fine style with all the ethereal heft and heartache you can fit in nine minutes. The most important ingredients for bands of this style are those simple but effective lead guitar lines. Gregor Mackintosh of Paradise Lost is the king of these, but vocalist/guitarist Stefan Nordstrom is a very worthy challenger to the throne. The song is a great intro to the record and takes numerous different avenues in a particularly dark neighborhood. Nordstrom’s vocals really set the band apart from their peers. He is unlike any other singer I have heard in this branch of Metal, which is a plus. They are vicious yet endearing, working perfectly to add to the shades of grey. ‘Catharsis’ is a lot more direct but equally as enjoyable. Third track, ‘Streetlights,’ takes a different approach whilst still being consistent to the bands sound. It is an instrumental track and shows a different side to the band and their song arranging.
So far, so damn good, BUT then we get to ‘22.’ What on earth were Soliloquium thinking? It is hard for me to think of a better example of a song sounding not only out of place on an album, but not even sounding like the same band composed it! I am serious! It boggled my mind. The track itself isn’t bad, but if I wanted to listen to Slowdive, then I would listen to Slowdive. It actually sounds like something from the English alternative/Shoegaze band’s oft misunderstood and critically lauded record Pygmalian. The inclusion of ’22’ just blows my mind and really interrupts not only the musical flow of Contemplations, but also the overall disposition. I suggest after you listen to it once, get over your disbelief and then skip it on repeat listens.
After ‘22’ there isn’t a dud in sight. For me, the mostly vocal-less track ‘For the Accursed’ is just divine. It is a gloriously grief-stricken few minutes. Closing track ‘Wanderlust’ is also wonderful. Then, with that, Contemplations is all over. Seven slices of melancholic majesty and one utterly baffling curve ball. I for one am excited for Soliloquium’s album number three, because it could be a game changer and a true genre-classic.