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Music DVD Review: Solitude Aeturnus – Hour of Despair

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Despite the fact that they have been around for twenty years, and have released five albums, it was only a few months ago that I first heard Solitude Aeturnus.

Even so, they possess a sound I enjoy. It is eye opening every time I get a disk from a band I don’t know. When the music turns out to be as impressive as SA’s Alone was, it only makes you stop and think about how many great bands are still out there just waiting to be discovered.

Hour of Despair is the first DVD release for the act, and it builds on the base already established with Alone. If you are looking for some doom metal, this is an exciting live act that delivers the goods.

Hailing from Texas, the five piece band traveled to Poland to record this concert with Metal Mind on February 12, 2007 at the Stodola Club in Warsaw, Poland. And for those unfamiliar with the band, I did say Texas. I was surprised too. In a genre that is dominated by European acts, it is ironic that a bunch of Texans have made such an indelible mark on the genre. The music is dark, intense, technically sound, catchy, and flat out excellent. Now, as for the DVD? It is 70 minutes of perfectly performed doom metal.

I am not terribly well versed in the doom metal scene, although I find the genre to be intriguing. Solitude Aeturnus takes the technical dirges of darkness from their albums and successfully brings them to the live stage. This style is typically slow, methodical, and not all that conducive to the lively pit action I am more accustomed to. Despite these potential drawbacks, Robert Lowe (vocals) and John Perez (guitar) lead the band onto the battlefield.

The performance here is impeccable. Lowe stands at the center of the stage in priestly robes, wearing a large cross, and commands immediate attention as he sings in his hauntingly emotive style. At his side is founding member and lead guitarist John Perez, who sounds great in the live setting. These two, in conjunction with the other three members prove that you can take a mid-tempo style of music that relishes in sonic atmospherics and turn out a concert that flat out rocks. To use the example by comparison of a couple better known bands, think Type O Negative’s gloom crossed with Dream Theater’s technique. It is a fascinating sound to see and hear performed live.

The concert itself is shot well, although the lighting was definitely not geared for video recording. Concerts can be considerably difficult to shoot. Not that I’m a videographer or anything. But I do know from the few times I have taken still photos, it can be awfully tough to get a good shot through the lighting setups. What works for a live audience can wreak havoc with photo/video equipment. I mention this because the blue lights early in the set cause some problems, as well as some flashing issues throughout.

Despite that, the production quality is quite high. There is nothing terribly special about the camera angles, but there are some nice closeups of Perez’s hands as he plays (something I always found to be interesting). For the most part, the image is clear and crisp. A few digital artifacts are revealed in the bright lights, but nothing to ruin the disk.

On the audio side, we get a 5.1 surround mix and 2.0 stereo mix. Both of them are good, but the 5.1 mix has considerably more life to it, even through a stereo setup. Each instrument is captured and rendered nicely. Which is as it should be.

The extras are highlighted by some old concert footage. The quality isn’t all that good, but seeing this old stuff is a great bonus. First up is a pair of songs recorded at Joe’s Garage in Fort Worth, TX in 1987. This recording features the bands first singer, Chris Gabeworth, and while he doesn’t sound bad, he is nothing next to what Robert Lowe brings to the band.

The other video is a set of 4 songs recorded in 1992 at Live On The Rocks in Dallas, Texas. This performance comes complete with the big rock star entrance, followed by the band delivering a show that is better than the 1987 set, and with better quality.

Also included is an interview with Perez and Lowe about the history of the band and their latest album, Alone. It runs for over thirty minutes, and is really worth listening to. They talk about their time on Roadrunner records, how the new material compares to the old, and how they came together in the wake of John Perez’s departure from the thrash scene of the mid 1980’s.

Rounding out the set are a couple of photo galleries, a text history of the band, a band discography, and some desktop wallpaper for your computer.

Bottomline: This is definitely a band I need to investigate further. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to see them live. They do bring a dynamic presence to the stage and an energy that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with the doom genre. Man, these guys are really good. What else can I say?

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  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I’d say that you’ve said it all Chris.

    -Glen