Whenever there is a metal supergroup from Sweden, it’s a good idea to take notice. Solution .45 is one such supergroup, containing members from bands like Miseration, Scar Symmetry, and Stratovarius, and the band incorporates elements from all of those bands and more to create their melodic, progressive death metal sound.
The roots of Solution .45 go back to 2007 when Christian Älvestam (Miseration, Torchbearer, Unmoored, ex-Scar Symmetry) and Jani Stefanovic (Miseration, Divinefire) got together to write some music. The two brought in longtime collaborator/producer Thomas “Plec” Johansson and recorded some demos that would be the first songs of the band. From the start, the sound incorporated heavy riffs with melodic choruses and in recording their first album, For Aeons Past, the band also added progressive song structures to the mix but never lost the distinctive groove of the 7-string guitars. Stefanovic and Älvestam brought in more talent to complete the band including: Rolf Pilve (Stratovarius; drums), Tom Gardiner (Hateform; guitar), Anders Edlund (Angel Blake, Solar Dawn; bass and Patrik Gardberg (Ammotrack; guitar). For Aeons Past was well received by critics and fans and the band came to the US to perform at ProgPower USA. Looking to get a certain sound for Nightmares in the Waking State, part I, the band has again brought in “Plec” Johansson for production and even recorded drums with Daniel Berstrand who worked with In Flames and Meshuggah to make sure they could get the sound they wanted.
One never knows quite what to expect from supergroups and that was my thought after hitting play on this album. “Wanderers from the Fold” opens up with some rather ominous sounding feedback and then a heavy groovy riff and some pounding drums come in as well as the vocals from Christian Älvestam that immediately brought to mind Christian and Jani’s other band, Miseration. This first track sounds very much like it could be a Miseration track to me, very strong melodic death metal.
“Perfecting the Void” also starts out very much like a Miseration track and mind you, this is not a bad thing at all, but then the clean vocals come in and everything changes. Guitar solos erupt soon after that and suddenly the supergroup goes in a different direction. There are still the growling death metal vocals but the addition of the clean vocals really take the track in a different direction and feel. Production meets with expectations and is excellent although the guitars often feel a bit too smooth and the vocals do come across as a bit too loud in some instances, but that may be me hearing things through an expectation of Miseration. The clean vocals do add a certain level of catchiness to the song and one can end up singing along.
“Bleed Heavens Dry” almost has the feel of a ballad to it, which is a bit of a surprise. At this point, I will just have to admit that this album takes a number of twists and turns and I found myself surprised fairly often. “In Moments of Despair” has an even stronger power ballad feel to it with its acoustic guitars and lack of the heavy driving section that is in the latter half of “Bleed Heavens Dry”.
Almost as if to make sure the listener hasn’t forgotten the death metal influences in the band, “Second to None” roars to life immediately after the much slower and calmer “In Moments of Dispair” and brings back the feel of Miseration before the clean chorus comes in and trades off vocally with the death vocals. The way the guitars are used in this song and throughout the album balance the heavy with melodic as there will often be a driving, dark riff carrying the song along and a brighter, almost airy guitar line providing some melody over the top. In some ways, this project reminds me a bit of later As I Lay Dying in that there is the interplay between the driving death metal and the clean vocals and brighter guitar sections, but in the case of Solution .45, the arrangements are such that the transitions between the two styles don’t feel as forced and the absolute skill of the musicians help add some complexity to the mix.
In the end, this is a supergroup that brings together several different styles that are recognizable from their other bands but combined here in a way that works. Exceptional musicianship and complex arrangements allow Solution .45 to shift from the heavy and aggressive to the soft and melodic with ease and in a way that doesn’t seem forced. Nightmares in the Waking State, part I is simply what one would expect from a Swedish death metal supergroup.
Written by John Jackson
1 Wanderer from the Fold 5:18
2 Perfecting the Void 5:31
3 Bleed Heavens Dry 5:09
4 Winning Where Losing Is All 5:58
5 In Moments of Despair 6:24
6 Second to None 5:10
7 Targeting Blaze 4:56
8 Alter (The Unbearable Weight of Nothing) 4:30
9 Wield the Scepter 5:16
10 I, Nemesis 11:32
Christian Älvestam – Vocals
Patrik Gardberg – Rhythm and lead guitar
Jani Stefanovic – Rhythm and lead guitar
Rolf Pilve – Drums
Record label: AFM Records, Nov. 2015
Lyric video for ‘Perfecting the Void’
Video for ‘Winning Where Losing is All’