Solution .45 – Nightmares in the Waking State Part I (AFM Records)Tuesday, 3rd November 2015
It’s been 5 years since Solution .45’s debut, For Aeons Past, stormed into existence. It was the album that many were waiting for with Christian Älvestam returning to more Scar Symmetry-esque clean/harsh vocal trade-offs (he had been involved with the more ‘brutal’ Miseration and The Few Against Many in between, both of which also feature Solution .45 members) and it delivered. It was noticeably more vocal and melody driven than some of Älvestam’s past work but it was hard to knock due to the wow factor of many of the tracks. Since then, the band lost bassist Anders Edlund and guitarist Tom Gardiner, alongside a number of births/deaths among family members, but Solution .45 persevered and recorded a double-album of material.
Nightmares in the Waking State Part I will be instantaneously recognizable by fans, but don’t expect For Aeons Past redux. Wisely, the band pulled a few tricks out of their sleeves. Upon cranking up the opening track, “Wanderer from the Fold,” there’s a clear uptick in the heaviness and aggression factor. “Wanderer” is a brutal track, with plenty of groove behind it, playful synths, and zero clean vocals. But it’s speedy and undeniably catchy all the same. “After (The Unbearable Weight of Nothing)” also goes straight for the visceral, with a strong emphasis on mid-tempo groove and would make for a killer live cut. Many praise Älvestam’s singing, but his screams/growls are just as strong and he gets to flex them a bit more than one may have expected on this album. Even more melodic numbers like “Perfecting the Void” and “Wield the Scepter” feature plenty of snarl, which is quite fitting with the downtuned and crunchy guitars. But yes, the melodic moments are here, and they do push further in the melodic direction, allowing for some great contrast (see “Targeting Blaze”) and dynamic shifts. There’s also an emphasis on some real shredding solos (not that they were absent on FAP by any means), but they are much more memorable this time around. Check out “Second to None” in that department.
On the other hand, the band tosses a few bones for the fans. Those who enjoyed FAP’s “Lethean Dreams” will cheer when they hear “In Moments of Despair,” this album’s power ballad. Älvestam’s vocal stamp is all over this one, and the soaring keys and chorus melody is practically spellbinding. Those looking for the more epic side of things will find it with the 11+ minute closer, “I, Nemesis,” which shines all the more brighter with the added changes in dynamic with this album.
Solution .45 could have easily just written another For Aeons Past, but the effort they put into Nightmares in the Waking State is deserving of accolades. The band feels more like a band, amplifying each members’ strengths to bring everything to the next level. On par with melodic death’s best offerings this year (Soilwork, Disarmonia Mundi), this album will take 2015 out with a bang. To think there’s a whole another whole album of this same quality ready to roll out next year!