Don’t ask me how to pronounce this EP title (§). I don’t know if the symbol even makes a sound. It is clever though, two S’s arranged like the new band logo.
A new logo for a new sound. Solemn Sun have previously been known as Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun. Jim hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s just that the band have chosen to undergo a full transformation.
Their two previous albums, Atlases (2010) and Death (2012) channeled a folk-punk vibe that would feature intricate acoustic guitar picking one minute and galloping punk beats the next. § is a departure, stylistically. Gone are the fiddly little break-downs, this is more of a distorted grungy affair.
Opening track “Josef” sends that message straight from the get-go. The drums sound thunderous with washy cymbals and the guitars undulate with intensity. The verses simmer violently to make the choruses sound comparatively more explosive. “Josef” delivers a punch with a message that something new is afoot.
“30:10” is quieter, but it still sounds full and moody. The time signature seems to segue between 4/4 and 6/8 to add an interesting poly rhythmic feel. “Children” and “Ruin” take the EP to its climax with more hard-hitting rock anthems.
Triumphant final track “I Saw” seems like a throwback to the band’s former sound. The drumming alternates between syncopated tribal sounding tom beats and 16th note hi-hat playing.This pulls the momentum back and allows the individual instruments to shine through in different sections. There is a lot of treble in this song, but it ends in plenty of unnecessary squealing feedback.
There are still recognisable nods to the past, and rightly so. The band has a back-catalogue to be proud of, and they can’t dismiss it completely. Although his name is no longer visible, Jim Lockey’s voice is still there to stir up memories. Just as Black Pacific always sounded like Pennywise 2.0 and OFF! sounds just like a fresher Black Flag, singers will always remind you of their most prominent band.
§ is a direct alt-rock assault. The band has adopted the grungy loud/quiet approach and coupled it with ambient post-rock. The songs sound driven because of the no-nonsense drums and bass churning out a steady throbbing beat. And although they are distorted, the layered guitars soar and complement each other well, whilst still retaining a chugging drive. The instruments are all unified to push the song forward.
Ringing in at just under 22 minutes, § provides a short but promising taste of things to come. The old adage goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but I disagree. This is a case of when a band has reinvented themselves and it has paid off.
The EP is available for pay-what-you-want download and streaming on the Solemn Sun Bandcamp page.