Previous album Awakening the Forest probably set a record for longest presence on my phone/iPod. I couldn't bear to take it off until I got the promo for this one. That's well over two years. I'm never not in the mood for Alunah. Solennial with likely stick around until they release another one.
Let's get some particulars out of the way before we get much further here. As mentioned Sophie Day handles guitar and vocals, David Day mans the other 6-string, Daniel Burchmore's on bass and Jake Mason anchors the band on drums. I should also note it was recorded and mixed by Chris Fielding of Conan at (Jon Davis of Conan's) Skyhammer Studios and was mastered by Greg Chandler. Also Charlotte “Chipper” Nicholls (Crippled Black Phoenix) enhances the atmosphere with her cello across much of the album and Rich Harris (Oily Toys) makes a guest appearance on vocals. Not to mention Adrian Baxter's spectacular cover art.
OK, back to the music. Opener “The Dying Soil” is a dreamy intro slowly building on a melody until it drops dead leading into the fuzz odyssey that follows. “Light of Winter” sets the mood with its dark yet warm aura brimming with tone. The riffs here and throughout Solennial fall on the hypnotic side inducing involuntary toe tapping and head nodding.
Another aspect permeating the album is its catchiness. “Feast of Torches” especially takes up residence deep in the brain with its repetitive main riff and killer chorus. Heaviness and groove don't let you forget this is doom however. Soulful leads and Sophie's croon lift the overall feel out of eternal darkness and into the light while numbing the nerve centres, calming the psyche and inducing a state of mellow relaxation through stoner/sludge ecstasy.
Nicholls' cello accents soothe deeply and amplify Alunah's melodic sensibility sending the listener heavenward while lyrically Alunah make you feel like heaven is right here on earth. Personally, it can feel quite spiritual.
I have to admit the album's closer has me feeling a bit embarrassed. Had I read the promo materials (I skipped right to “Download”.) or had a goth bone in my body, I would have known “A Forest” was originally done by The Cure before listening to it 50 times and sitting down to write this. My apologies. Upon checking out the original it's obvious but after the telling intro Alunah takes the song down a notch or two, not only tonally but on speed as well. They turned it into a soporific doom opus with hints of the original poking their way through. Alunah have made the track all their own and exposed at least one listener (me) to a band not previously on the radar.
Solennial is simply superb. The smoky fluidity of Alunah's melodies coil around you imbuing warmth as comforting as your favourite wool sweater or a mother's embrace. Repeated listens only enhance the connection to the encapsulating album and reveals the deeper subtleties such as Burchmore's bass touches and Mason's smooth percussion. Solennial will become a staple of my listening habits for the foreseeable future and hopefully you'll become awakened to its endless charms yourself.