To me, one of the best feelings in the world is when you buy an album by a band you haven’t heard of before…whether it’s because you like the album cover or you think the name of the band is cool…and the album turns out to be FUCKING AWESOME!! I can’t really say I’ve felt this way about a lot of albums since the last time I actually walked into a record store to buy a CD (iTunes kills surprises). So now I can only remember a few of the bands/albums with which I’ve experienced this feeling: CHILDREN OF BODOM/ Something Wild, WINTERSUN/Wintersun, BECOMING THE ARCHETYPE/Terminate Damnation, and now; SOLAR FRAMENT/In our hands (April 2011/Scarlet Records).
Let me just say right off the bat, this album has been in my regular rotation since the first time I listened to it. In our hands is probably one of the best albums I’ve heard in the past year and one of the best of its genre I’ve ever heard. On that point, it may not be for those who are strictly into technical death or genres with a “-core” suffix. SOLAR FRAGMENT are big on melody and harmony with songs that are structured along a classic metal type of format. Fans of just about any type of traditional metal will appreciate the modern approach of this band.
I’m a little unsure as to whether I would classify SOLAR FRAGMENT as “power metal”, “folk-metal” or “boat-metal”. Probably a blending of the three would be most accurate. The vocal style is definitely more “power metal” while the instrumental arrangements incorporate a lot of classic metal as well as Irish folk themes and musical phrasings that are becoming more common with European bands these days. Whatever you want to call it, SOLAR FRAGMENT have a very unique style and songs that will lodge themselves in your brain.
It will be clear to anyone that listens to In Our Hands that the music is centered on the vocals, which are frigging brilliant. Singer Robert Leger’s approach focuses on the actual power of the voice rather than the typical power-metal method of reaching for the upper stratosphere of the mezzo-soprano register in every other line. His voice has a lot of grit and projection to it, all the while being augmented by harmonizing back-up vocal layers which add a super dramatic effect to the overall tone of the music.
On this fulcrum of vocal intensity the rest of the instruments are superbly balanced. One of the best things about this band is that each musical element works in seemingly perfect concert with the others to create a really masterful melodic environment in each song. The guitars have a great tone and the playing exhibits formidable technical ability on the part of Manuel Wiegmann and Marc Peters. But the compositions seem to be almost devoid of ego, wherein, the guitars are unmistakably featured and yet mainly serve to add to the greater substance of the songs themselves. The drums and bass, played by Sascha Schiller and Dominic Serwe respectively, are also gears toward this cooperative effort; holding down the foundation when necessary and showing flare when it’s called for.
The point is you’re getting an album that was conceived of as a fully developed piece of music rather than just a collection of songs where one element shines and the others are really just there for support. The latter scenario, I feel, is all too common in a lot of power metal today. Kudos to SOLAR FRAGMENT for getting it right.
I’m not going to go through each song here because everyone who reads this should just go out and buy the album. However, I will mention that you should pay special attention to the songs “Inside the Circle” and “Moana’s Return”. I ended up liking these songs even more after I noticed what the lyrics were about. The first one is a song about the personal conflict of Anakin Skywalker in episodes 1-3 of Starwars (Awesome!), and features guest vocals from Hansi Kursch of BLIND GUARDIAN(Awesome!). The second is about the plot from the movie Pan’s Labyrinth which happens to be one of my favorites (song is fuckin awesome too).
In my opinion SOLAR FRAGMENT have hit the mark dead on with In Our Hands. I recommend it to anyone who likes well written, well performed music.