Wednesday, 24th May 2017. 11:40:39am ET
Reviews CD Reviews Ethereal Sol Invictus- The Devil's Steed


Artist: Sol Invictus
CD Title: The Devil's Steed
Label: Dark Vinyl Records
Reviewer: Matthew Johnson
Date: 4-8-05

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It’s back to basics for Sol Invictus on their twelfth album: gloomy folk with just a touch of ambience and some medieval elements thrown in for good measure. Gone are the jazz influences that confused long-time fans on the band’s previous release; though this album does feature horns, they’re more martial fanfare than beatnik freestyle. Singer and songwriter Tony Wakeford sounds like he always does, deep-voiced and melancholic with a sort of wavering quality that adds to the grimness of the songs. Proving that he doesn’t take himself as seriously as his lyrics might suggest, Wakeford also throws in moments of sardonic humor. On “We Are the Dead Men,” for example, he tosses in the line “Being dead can make you bored” amidst the more serious funereal imagery. “A Window to the Sun” provides an uncharacteristically soft moment, with backing harmonies that are emotional and pretty instead of bombastic and oppressive. It’s actually the songs he didn’t write, however, that stand out from the rest. “Twa Corbies” is a traditional English ballad about a pair of crows eating a dead person – perfect subject matter for such a dreary band. Though Wakeford slips between modern and archaic English seemingly at random, it’s a wonderful song, especially with the understated guitar arrangement he gives it. “The North Ship,” composed for a poem by Philip Larkin, is exceptional as well, though less subtle, including both electric and acoustic guitars as well as pianos and scraped violins. Though for the most part Sol Invictus has eschewed the heavy use of sampling and industrial noise that ruined Death In June for folk purists, Wakeford does make use of modern recording techniques, applying feedback and reverb to the soft strums of “Where Stone Lions Prowl,” for instance, or looping sections of piano and horn on the ambient instrumental piece “Come Winter Rain.” It gives the impression of an artist deeply rooted in old Europe, yet still aware of the present. At this point, Sol Invictus is probably the most consistent band in the dark folk scene. While Wakeford doesn’t quite match the wild mystical brilliance of Current 93’s David Tibet or the controversial thrust of Death In June’s Douglas P., he’s the only one of the bunch that can be relied upon to continue producing album after album of near-perfect material. This newest release, a great listen whether or not you’re familiar with the band’s body of work, is no exception.

Visit www.tursa.com for information on Sol Invictus and Tony Wakeford’s other projects.


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