The biggest shame of the music industry, as it stands today, is that so many talentless bands (I won't bother to name them here) have the funds and the label backing to get into a studio and record their lifeless, mindless albums to drop on an unsuspecting and ignorant public. Meanwhile, so much talent goes wasted, simply due to lack of financial means. For Of Solitude and Solemn, it's all about making the best of what you have, and putting out music that you can be proud of. This one man project from the UK may not have the deep pockets of a major label backing him, but what Joe Hawker does have is a strong grasp on composition and execution. His use of keyboards, acoustic guitars, and rich soundscapes can't be ruined by a crumby microphone, or less than ideal equipment; talent always outlasts material gain. But for Hawker to truly get his vision onto recorded media, it will take not one or the other, but both. On his self titled EP, he gives us just enough to know that this project could go far; with a little help from his friends and complete strangers.
What Hawker manages to do, both early and often, is create a beautiful contrast between light and dark. On "The Wanderer," his use of acoustic guitars to open the track sets the stage beautifully for the atmospheric doom approach that follows. He crafts a melody here, in the lead capacity, that could easily be responsible for your body and head swaying from side to side. As his growls enter, they provide something else entirely; a level of grit and raw energy to elevate the cleaner parts of the mix. The restraint and patience shown in this ten minute epic is, perhaps, his greatest asset, allowing things to rise and fall organically, rather than forcing the square block into the round hole. The second half the EP, the towering, thirteen minute "Age Upon Age," follows the same basic formula, but in a way that could coin a new style altogether. Relying heavily on a single guitar melody, one that becomes reminiscent of so many melodic post rock bands, Hawker changes what we know to be doom metal into something more delicate and fragile. By no means has he removed the raw, aggressive element from the fold, but merely given it shape and texture that may otherwise have been lacking. The double kick drums and screams remain, but they are joined by clean vocals and soothing melodies.
There are a lot of takeaways from this debut, all of which should be considered encouraging for the future of this project. Not only has he gone out on a limb, of sorts, by combining the elements of doom and post-rock, but he has done so with a symphonic twist that makes the two stick more than anyone would have expected. His talent in all facets, from instrumental to vocal, make releases like this one all the more personal, as every note, lyric, and key conform to his vision. Ah, the beauty of the one man band. But more notably, Hawker has done the best with the tools he has, and still managed to release an album worth hearing. The production and mix leave a lot to be desired, and must improve in leaps and bounds to keep up with the music itself. It would be a shame to see good songwriting and musicianship go to pot over a less than stellar mix. A few Bandcamp purchases and donations later, and it could get interesting. Get this man a budget, and Of Solitude And Solemn will be a fast rising star in the post-doom wave.
Bandcamp - http://ofsolitudeandsolemn.bandcamp.com/
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Of-Solitude-and-Solemn/129188580594839