Album Review: Blackfold – “Solarus” (Doom Metal)

Written By Chrisy Berryman

Blackfold – Solarus

Doom/Drone Metal from Manchester, UK

Released October 22nd, 2021 via Trepanation Recordings

The beginning is the end is the beginning… or so some would have us believe. This EP begins light-hearted, with the sound of fleeting footsteps over water that starts us on a journey of compassion and understanding. Swiftly, we’re flipped over, thrown overboard and told that we are not at peace here. This EP is meant to be listened to LOUD, and it’s no joke. The louder it’s played, the deeper you feel each and every emotion push through you.

“Solarus” takes listeners on a deep, dark journey through intense highs and painful lows with elements of grunge, thrash, and even melodic mixed in. The sound and emotion are heavy, almost overwhelmingly so, as it seeps into your ears and settles into the crevices of your mind. This EP serves as a diary of thoughts, feelings, and experiences over a period of four years. Typically influenced by the darker compositions of Vangelis and Hans Zimmer, Blackfold masterfully mixes this EP with writing, arranging, and recording completed by Isaac J. Dean. It’s presented for fans commonly fond of Bongripper, Conan, and Sunn O))).

At just over an hour in length, “Solarus” haunts us with textured guitar, skin-scarring synth, and hulking drums. Guitars take the place of leading vocals in the spotlight but, not without the forceful assistance of its instrumental backers constantly clawing at its back.

As said by Blackfold, the music in this EP induces a heavy degree of catharsis as you feel like you’re being dragged down into the Mariana’s trench of Doom metal. Just as you take your final breath, the guitars begin to grow rather than dwindle as if to signal some unseen predator in the deep. You feel frightened, lonely, and confused. Hints of synth almost whistle for your demise while the rising strain of drums beckon you back to the surface.

Just as you thought there was no light to bring you comfort, a twinkle appears. It’s enough to call you home after just 25 minutes. You take a deep breath as you breach the waves, relieved though you can’t help but feel you were strangely at home in the blackness. You find a stray plank, likely from a battered ship, to climb aboard and catch a bit of a break. Are you free? It seems that way… for now.

You draw strength from uplifting drums and harmonious guitars. You can see dawn cresting the horizon as waves below you finally calm. This halfway point is stunning; bringing chills down your spine as if to feel truly relieved of years’ worth of pain and sorrow that had been harboured for far too long. It’s atmospheric, and relatable; all too familiar when we believe ourselves to be on the right path forward. However, the lingering bellow of a harsh chord reveals that we’re not out of the water just yet.

The sun is hot, scorching as it reflects off the glistening water surrounding you. You wonder what’s more painful – to burn alive in the searing sun, or to drown in the endless depths of sea? You’re rolled by a fearsome wave, back into the sea, as guitars and drums roll over you, pulling you back under with repeated riptides, threatening to drain every last ounce of strength from your body. The music picks up pace as you try to swim for your life but, can you make it? Can you break free?

Just as the waves begin to pull back once more, and the guitars seem to rise, you dive down, breaking the chain of endless riptides and painful hits. You’re tired, fearful, and unsure whether to cry or simply give up. Would anyone notice? Would anyone even care?

“Solarus” takes each of us through our own waves of emotion; from the downward spiral, to the feverish high yet, we still step forward with caution. Each of us are unsure, and every breakdown, build up, and steady course in this EP becomes all too impactful. To look at from a personal perspective, or one of criticism is still to share in the experiences brought forward in this powerful composition. This is Doom/Drone Metal without the over-saturation of sludgy amp play, and the embrace of harmonies that stretch across the Metal genre to bring in curious, and common listeners alike.

But, how do you end such a long and epic journey? To compile four years of emotion into little over an hour certainly can’t have a proper end, can it? Think again. After 50 minutes, light synth once more begins to trickle in, offering feelings of warmth and delight. We never forget the linger of the heavy guitars and pounding drums in the back of our mind but, we welcome change with half-hearted smiles, and a shaky hand. It’s not the sort of track you expect for Doom metal, to have such length and depth but, still hold onto surprise, shock, and diversity.

The Bottom Line

Blackfold’s EP “Solarus” is about the journey, and not the destination. It’s how far we’ve come, and not how much further we have left to go. It’s a dark reminder of what’s behind us, yet an echo of what can be if we push forward. So, take a step back and allow yourself to not only walk a mile in four years’ worth of Blackfold’s experiences but, take that time to reflect on your own as well.

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