“I’m not going any further til I hear Alan say that we’re heavy metal”.
That immortal line, from The Comic Strip Presents’ immortal heavy metal spoof Bad News on Tour, uttered by Nigel Planer’s timeless study in buffoonery Den Dennis, would, I imagine, be something that never gets said in the Solitude camp.
Y’see Japanese metalheads Solitude, formed in 1996 but only now seeing their third album get the wide exposure it deserves after last year’s limited release, are about as unmistakably heavy metal as it’s possible to get without tipping over the edge into Bad News-style parody.
There is of course nothing wrong with that at all, and Reach for the Sky is pound-for-pound one of the most enjoyable straight-up heavy metal album I’ve heard in a long, long time.
No concessions are made to sub-genres or nuance here; Reach for the Sky is pure old school heavy metal, an album where the fast songs sound like something Lemmy might have had a hand in creating in the mid eightes and the not-quite-so-fast songs sound like an enticing hybrid of Tank and Saxon circa the same period.
The Axes of Shingo Ida scream – when they’re not bludgeoning, that is – and the rhythm section of drummer Takamasa “MAD” Ohuchi and his bass playing compadre Toru Nishida is a study in adamantine solidity. There is no compromise in the world of Solitude, just belief, commitment and dedication to the cause. This is perhaps best personified by the thrilling vocal performance of Akira Sugiuchi, a man who clearly gargles rivets before entering the vocal booth but who was also clearly born to the role. An overnight sensation twenty years in the making!
Reach for The Sky is short by modern standards – only eight tracks and just over forty minutes in duration – but it seems much longer as every song is packed with enough ideas to keep most bands occupied for half a lifetime. Closing track December is probably the best on offer, but fans of uncomplicated, hard hitting metal will find that every track appeals enough to keep them returning again and again.