It would be impossible to review this self-titled debut EP without giving a brief explanation of SOLEMN SUN, and how they came to be. 18 months ago, the alt-folk 4 piece from Cheltenham formerly known as Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun were one of the UK music industry’s hottest underground properties; touring with the likes of Frank Turner and Dropkick Murphys, headlining a nation-wide tour and making a progressively enlarging name for themselves in doing so. They released (arguably) their best track, ‘Wilderness of a Wild Youth‘ in September 2013, played a headline tour a month later, and then fell deathly quiet. So quiet in fact, that many were left wondering if they would, like so many bands before them, just fade away never to be heard of again.
Fast forward to July of this year, and the rumours weren’t good. “Jim’s leaving the band and going solo”, “they’re splitting up for good”, “Chris, Phil and Si are starting their own band without Jim”, you get the picture. However, this was simply not the case. From these rumours came the news of Solemn Sun, dropping the “JL&T” and continuing as a 4 piece with no prefix moniker, with a change in direction and sound. Just under 3 months along the line, the self-titled EP lands in my inbox and we go to work!
Opening track Josef was introduced to us back in July alongside the main announcement, sounding like an Interpol/Nine Inch Nails love child and giving a stark introduction to an evolved sound; a bleak, rippling influx of sweeping guitars and isolated vocals that instantly raise the hairs on the back of a neck.
Lockey’s vocals really come to the forefront next in 30 10, which despite being a little too stripped back is a decent track. Children is where the EP really kicks off for me, nothing groundbreaking but it’s the first time we see in the band in full rock mode, with pounding drums and the telling opening lyric of “I’ve been losing sight of myself for years”, really hitting home that this was an essential change of scenery for the band, who have self-admitted to being bored/disillusioned of what they’d become.
Ruin is another home run; an epic sounding rock track crescendoing ever upwards, with a chorus just begging to be sung back by adoring crowds, something that Jim as a songwriter has always held in his arsenal and has seemingly carried through here onto this release. I Saw is perhaps the most complete track, bringing the band’s best bits together in an atmospheric, giving a yang to Josef‘s yin, an upbeat post-rock track that would be even better if it wasn’t for over a minute and a half of unnecessary feedback at the end of the track
As far as direction is concerned I’m personally not too sure that this EP is entirely different to the stylings of the aforementioned Wilderness of a Wild Youth, but seeing as I quoted that as their best ever track, this is no bad thing. Solemn Sun has certained whetted my appetite for a full length release, which hopefully won’t be too far into the future. Their evolution as individuals and as a unit is evident throughout, with the lyrical style being more astute and giving that maturity to their sound that I was looking for with this release.
All in all, despite the excessive amount of feedback in the final track (I’m not a fan of ‘arty’, dramatic stuff when it comes to music), Solemn Sun have shown with this EP that they are still a force to be reckoned with. Dropping everything you’ve worked for and risking an upset is a brave, perhaps foolish thing to do for a band of their stature, but what they’ve proved with this debut is that if the talent’s there, who gives a fuck what your name is.