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Answer, The: Solas

We've all been there. Stick or twist, play it safe or take a risk. In many ways this moment has been coming for The Answer for a very long time and in many others, it's felt like a day that would never arrive. Having set their own bar remarkably high with the now ten year old debut album, Rise, The Answer seem to have spent the next four albums trying to better it, and while never releasing anything below the excellent standard, probably never quite achieved that goal. With the anniversary of Rise celebrated with a newly released and tarted up special edition, Solas is where this band twist, this is their risk, it's where they find out if their fans are willing to let them evolve and grow. Solas is where the heavy rocking blues formula that not only marked out all their previous work, but gave The Answer what many bands would trade in their rhythm section for, a signature sound that made them unmistakable, is returned to the store for an exchange. Brave? Undoubtedly. Folly? Possibly. Does it work? That's the million dollar question…

Using their Celtic roots as a base, Solas finds The Answer incorporating the acoustic era of Zeppelin, the pomp rock of Magnum, a sense of atmospherics and colour that they've never displayed before. Layers of sounds that give a real sense of depth and provide a contemporary edge that they've previously avoided, suddenly embraced. Impressively it doesn't sound contrived in any way, and while it's a struggle to find many links to the band's long established past, that doesn't stop Solas being an album that halts you in your tracks so you can soak in what is a hugely mature set of songs. Hell, even Cormac Neeson's rasping howl has been tempered to such an extent that at times you can barely pick out that it's him singing at all, a previously unexpected diversity revealed as he evolves into a more rounded if less exuberant voice.

"Tunnel" closes the album, Hammond runs jostling gently with acoustic guitar and an almost croon from Neeson, the title cut crawls and slithers with intent, the expected explosion of guitars and riffs ignored in favour of a heady chorus that adds to the dark brooding mood. While the swirl of strings and layered vocals that float through "Beautiful World" unfold into a gently pompous strut and stride that could genuinely bring the band mainstream success. That "In This Land" brings it all down into intimate territory to be a subtle whisper of acoustic melody, "Being Begotten" delivers a mighty punch in the most understated manner imaginable and "Demon Driven Man" leans more strongly on the Celtic rock side than this band have before, shows just how 'all in' The Answer have gone. This is a band daring to be different and showing countless new strings to their bows in the process. In ways it's almost a little disappointing that "Left Me Standing" decides to play it safer and sound more expected, The Answer of old suddenly back in the room, although the gentle hush of "Real Life Dreamers" heads right back to where the new heart of Solas resides.

More than once I've been heard to say that the latest album from The Answer is the one that will take them over the top, the one that will make them hit the big time. Is Solas the release that will finally do just that? Well, with the rock world not exactly famed for letting bands try something different, it really could go either way. Whatever the outcome, The Answer can be proud and know that with Solas they gave it everything they've got and much more than most thought they ever had.

Track Listing
1. Solas
2. Beautiful World
3. Battle Cry
4. Untrue Colour
5. In This Land
6. Thief Of Light
7. Being Begotten
8. Left Me Standing
9. Demon Driven Man
10. Real Life Dreamers
11. Tunnel
12. In This Land – Acoustic (Bonus)
13. Light In Darkness – Demo (Bonus)
14. Money (Bonus)

Added: October 30th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Answer on Facebook
Hits: 1536
Language: english

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