[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
A strangely composed new release from the already odd Sol Invictus. A voracious dose of psychedelia has gotten loose in Tony Wakeford’s garden and things will never be the same; the acoustic guitar still strums and sways in the wind but around it an unkempt, wildly unpredictable plethora of instruments have taken root firmly in the soil. They craftily integrate themselves betwixt the dour words and strident percussion on these tracks making me look up from what I’m doing to be certain I am indeed listening to who I think I am; don’t go running out of the room screaming just yet, you’ll miss the best part of what is transpiring in this storybook kingdom where darkness is forever knocking at the door.
Not because it wants to eat you up… it just wants to come around to tea and brood.
‘Once Upon a Time’ has something to it I hadn’t heard before from Sol Invictus, the beast gets groovy. Who could have suspected that? A look at the artwork only confirms that the elements have been shaken up and then recorded before they settle. Ever looked at a snow globe and wondered what the flakes say while they’re whirling about in absolute chaos? You don’t have to anymore, and that’s not to say that this album has any kind of filler to it or that there’s even a hint of improvisation. Everything was plotted precisely and is exactly where it needs to be. From Tony’s happy sunshine-laden words to the flutes to the electric guitars fleshing out the song structure through deliciously written chords. The entire collection is a surprising feast of previously unexplored sonic territory.
But then, anyone listening knew that changes were afoot when the single for “Mr. Cruel” appeared. It’s a giddy tale of one individual’s methodology throughout his life as he dishes out only the worst possible repartee and heaps abuse on whomever is unfortunate enough to cross his path. There’s an exclusive b-side on it also, so snap it up before you miss out.
Gallows humor and biting cynicism are a constant in Sol Invictus but they have never been clad in so many gorgeous colors. I’m not talking about the stately aplomb which the band have given us before, this record lives and breathes; an organic symbiosis of what has come before and some mutant form of the music which Wakeford grew up listening to. It’s folksy at times alright but when one of the choruses vehemently belts out that people get what they deserve any thought of dipping candles or canning preserves gets chucked out the window and under the rails. No one is happy in this world but at best they can endure it and perhaps eventually make some kind of sense out of it.
I knew he harbored some strange tendencies in his music and I’ll keep making the case for his solo albums until I can no longer type but all that pales when you stop to absorb how much detail is contained herein; the instrumental pieces amaze me, like determined swine rooting in the dirt for the ever elusive black fungus there’s no relenting until the aim is achieved. The players who now make up this band are remarkably fearless, they’d have to be to compose a record such as this. It’s an admirable stance to take this far along and one that I’m certain will pay handsome dividends down the road.