By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Even as the members of Metallica cut their hair and Soundgarden peddles its sub-Sabbath riffs alternatively packaged, Arlington's Solitude Aeturnus continues its quixotic fight for the preservation of the metal beast. In Downfall--its fourth album--the band is more concerned with the dark, Gothic ambience of the genre than the ol' slam-bang. As a result, the album sounds as earnest and sinister as a good horror movie: The chills are few but real, the thrills cheap but entertaining.
Packed with sweeping riffs, grandiose chord changes, and intelligent lyrics, Downfall is no standard doom-rock fare. Songs like "Midnight Dreams" and "Chapel of Burning" boldly enter progressive-rock territory, while "Elysium" is a nightmarish tapestry of madness woven by distorted guitars and vocals. Ironically, the weakest song of the bunch is a cover of "Deathwish" by doom merchant Christian Death, but that doesn't stop what could have been a battle for a hopeless cause from turning into an unexpected victory.
The album closes with the melancholy introspection of "Concern": "Where is it that we go?/What is it that we seek?/What is it that we want?" Bleak sincerity makes Solitude Aeturnus stand out; how many bands of its ilk would include Edgar Allan Poe and Butros Butros Gali in their "thank you" list?
Spanish Fly Records
The 50 million readers of this paper who voted REO Speedealer Best New Act can't be wrong. OK, that may be stretching it a bit--perhaps--but the five 'dealers are all about rock-n-roll exaggeration. And excess. In their debut CD they cram 15 songs in less than 25 minutes--15 teeth-grinding uglifications played with drunken, iconoclastic glee. Fifteen excessive, frantic paeans to cheap booze, cheap drugs, and cheap sex, preferably in cheap cars. On cinder blocks. Every cliche is taken to its limit by this wild bunch of renegades.
REO Speedealer deals in big, dumb rock 'n' roll, the kind that would make Tipper Gore lock up her poodles and put her daughters on the pill. Or is it the other way around? Pandering to no one, the band is one of those rare entities that plays for itself, love it or leave it. The 'dealers know that major labels wouldn't touch them with rubber gloves, and they don't give a damn; in that sense, Speedealer is a truly underground band.
The lyrics may mean absolutely nothing, but somehow REO Speedealer's intensity makes that irrelevant. Its double-barrel, full-on guitar assault shoots all over the place: '70s fast boogie, '80s speed punk and '90s hardcore, swerving and spinning with demented magnificence, carving the band's name in the Rock and Roll Hall of Infamy.