Sol Invictus – Thrones

I assume Tony Wakeford and his team don’t need any further introduction. After many great albums it would be simple for them to trust on their experience and follow well-known paths. But that would be too easy, and not in line with the constant developments the band has made. So, while maintaining a typical ‘Sol feeling’, Thrones’ manages to sound fresh, combining acoustic folk with classical elements and a few experiments.

Throughout the years I have the feeling that Sol Invictus has become more of a band. Of course Tony Wakeford is still the central figure, but the contributions of for instance Matt Howden (who has also produced the album), Sally Doherty and Eric Roger (all also succesfull with other projects) are very important factors in the Sol sound. And what a luxurious position Sol Invictus has, to be able to work with so many gifted musicians!

‘Thrones’ really has a flow, each song melts into the other. The album starts with the rather dense opening song ‘Gods’ (reminding of Matt Howdens Hellfires work), with many classical elements and a lot of energy. Then the slow lovesong ‘Do and Say’ follows:

“Serenades and suicides
Orchestras and genocide
Despite everything they do and say
Love is here, and is here to stay.”

It has some nice flute and violin, and trumpet work from Eric Roger. On the previous album “The Hill of Crosses” there already was a jazzy experience, which is continuated here by the instrumental ‘Gonesville’. Trumpet improvisations and bass and soft drums make the ‘couplets’, with stunning violins in the ‘refrain’.
‘Thrones’, the title track’, is a slow atmosperic piece, carried by piano and Sally’s voice is used as an instrument here. It is followed by ‘ Then he killed here’, a dark murder story, of which Tony has written more in the past. Dark basses are alternated with triumphant trumpets, and Sally sings a nice second voice, which makes the song a little less grim.
The instant hit of the album must be ‘In God we Trust’. Experimental percussion, bass, trumpets, a catchy melody and the low voice of Karl Blake. Immediately you sing along with ‘In God we trust / but not too much’.

‘Driftwood Thrones’ is a midtempo, more traditional Sol track, giving you some space to breathe. But then we’re taken to less conventional paths with ‘The Thrill is Gone’, with various layers of trumpet and violin, subtle percussion and a nice vocal part of Sally Doherty. Though hardly recognizable as Sol Invictus, this is a great composition.
One of the highlights is ‘No God’, with an infectious violin part, acoustic guitars and powerful singing by Tony Wakeford. Nice flute and violin solos make this complete.
I’m almost happy when the last track begins, because so much is happening on this album that it is an intensive listening experience. ‘In the Blink of a Star’ is the epilogue, with a romantic sound but with grim lyrics:

“Marionettes or martyrs
Armies of the slain
Putting blood to canvas
Again, again, again
In the blink of a star”.

On his website, producer Matt Howden tells that he intended to give this album a simple sound, without any overdubs by the same person. But in the the end ‘Thrones’ ended up as an album with a full, rich sound, sometimes you think you’re listening to an orchestra! But this will not be a problem at concert, as Matt writes: “And I’ve worked out a way to get the live performances more like the record, as I originally intended with my first ideas about the production—cloning. We only need three Karls, four Sallys, five Erics and possibly sixteen of me… for that big string sound on ‘The Thrill Has Gone’. Fifteen of me can go to the bar for most of the rest of the set. Oh, and a Tony too.”

artist: Sol Invictus
label: Tursa
details: 10 tracks. released in 2002.