A new album from The Answer is always a welcome addition to the mountain that is my music collection. And when such a band is several albums into their career and make no secret that this new one is different from anything which came before, you normally expect a new twist on old stuff.
Except, this one really is different to anything they’ve ever done. Solas strips away their bluesy AC/DC-lite formula from the last five albums and makes something fresh, new and exciting. Yet it’s still immediately identifiable as The Answer.
The Irish lads are firmly wearing their Celtic hearts on their sleeves and spreads it across the eleven tracks with its indelible ink. Overall, it makes for a more sombre feel and the grittiness of past efforts are forgotten. However, it works as an excellent palate cleanser after Raise a Little Hell, which, by no stretch was a bad album, it just felt a little safe compared to past efforts.
It’s only in this phase of their career which The Answer can do something like this and it’s an interesting exercise in what music can be and still be pigeon-holed as rock. Left-field albums are often divisive and I can see that happening with this on a more basic binary level; you’ll either think it’s genius or terrible. I always welcome something new from an established act. It’s the only way bands can develop and grow, and if it does turn into a stinker, you can wait for the “back to basics” follow-up.
Songs like title track “Solas”, “Battle Cry” and “Beautiful World” have a sense of grandeur to them as the tracks build and progress into mighty crescendos. Meanwhile we have tracks like “In This Land” and “Thief of Light” which wander aimlessly and are just…there.
However, there is some familiar territory with “Untrue Colour” and “left Me Standing” sounding like they could have came at any point in The Answer’s back catalogue. The latter especially hums with excitement from the band; you can feel it coming through the speakers. Whilst the album flows exceptionally, by the time you’re two thirds in, the novelty of the new twist wears thin and you’re wishing the band had stuck to their tried and true blueprint. It’s never done them any harm in the past but if this is the album they need to get out of their system to allow them to come back swinging for the fences, then so be it.
Make no mistake, there are some great tunes here (largely the ones you’d expect) but I’d rather they downsized it, got the strongest tracks they had for Solas and made an EP. With that tired old phrase of “All killer, no filler”, you can’t attach it here. It’s more “Half killer, half filler”, almost as if the band were trying to fulfil contractual obligations.
As an exercise of what is possible in rock, The Answer succeed in answering the question with Solas. Performance-wise, the band have certainly turned it in once again. They’ve made something far different to anything which has came before in their career but it comes across too turgid and would have been far better consigned to an EP.