Preston, Lancashire is famous for Oliver Cromwell’s victory at the Battle of Walton-Le-Dale in 1648 and for the city’s Preston North End football team who won the inaugural football league in 1889. It also opened the first KFC franchise in England in the 1980s and three members of staff at Scream Blast Repeat lived, worked or studied there at some point in their lives. The UK metal scene knows Preston for thrash legends, Xentrix, who burst into the charts as one of the first bands to sign to Roadrunner back in 1990. Lancashire is the epicentre of the second wave of Covid-19 ripping through England but is also a metal haven for bands as diverse as Slugdge and No Sin Evades His Gaze. Solitary are the latest band to put the county on the map, and they do a damn good job of reminding people that the UK is hot for thrash metal right now.
Despite releasing their debut in 1999, Solitary remained on the fringes of the thrash underground but finally landed a deal this year when German label, Metalville Records, came calling. This belated recognition is the best thing that ever happened to this quartet and the energy and anger on their latest album is a testament to the fortitude and self-belief of the Solitary war machine. But if you’re expecting a homage to the late 80s golden period of thrash, think again. Solitary are a thrash outfit for the twenty-first century, full of political agitation and determination to write the soundtrack for your personal self-renewal.
‘I Will Not Tolerate’ is a street stomp of scything riffs and razor-sharp hooks. Out of the Big Four, Anthrax are the one with the most influence on the music, although Xentrix are the inevitable comparison. But close your eyes and you can imagine them sharing a stage with Machine Head in the Burn My Eyes era. The band have a lot to say and a wealth of lyrics but don’t squeeze them in as an afterthought, like Dark Angel. ‘Abominate’ and ‘Homage to the Broken’ are undisputed anthems with memorable choruses and head-banging rhythms. Thrash fans will pick up on the ‘Second Wave’ thrash vibe of Testament and Sacred Reich and will blink at the inclusion of cameo death metal vocals on ‘The Truth Behind the Lies’. These guys mean business. As they say in their own lyrics: “I’ll wage a one-man war on hypocrisy.” In other words, fuck the status quo!
Unlike most modern thrash puritans, Solitary stay clear of Metallica worship although last track, ‘Spawn of Hate’, takes ‘Blackened’ as a template for the riffing and mixes it with a more muscular Joey Belladonna octave for the vocals. Producer Simon Efemy (Napalm Death, Paradise Lost) deserves some credit here. The band capture a strong mix in the studio, as exemplified on the double-bass kicks and chunky guitar tone on ‘DTR (Dishonour True Reality)’, which is another jackboot stomp with a sweep-picking extravaganza among the lightning fast rhythms.
Thrash metal splintered in the 1990s but had an influence on all branches of the metal family tree. Solitary are not inventing anything new here and with the thrash revival as strong as ever, it will be difficult to stand out from the pack. These boys take their influence from the unadulterated era before the rise of blast beats, harsh vocals and drum triggers. At times, it can feel like we’re stuck in a time warp from 1993 when major label thrash bands struggled against the tide of grunge, but their message is relevant to the here and now and deserves a platform.
And as for those riffs, pay attention, Mr Mustaine.
Release Date: 23/10/2020
Record Label: Metalville Records
Standout tracks: I Will Not Tolerate, Abominate, DTR (Dishonour True Reality)
Suggested Further Listening: Xentrix – Shattered Existence (1989), Testament – Low (1994), Anthrax – Persistence of Time (1990)