Solstice never had it easy. Chronologically speaking at least, they fit neatly into the second wave of neo-prog though as guitarist and founder Andy Glass once told this writer: “We were the only band with a female singer and quite at odds with the clutch of Genesis-inspired acts.” Add the presence of a violin player and the group’s proclivity for traversing to the folkier, new age side of the street, and it’s easy to see why the big time evaded them.
Solstice’s initial run lasted from 1980 to 1985, during which time they trod the boards of the famous Marquee Club in London’s Wardour Street and at another gig in Hemel Hempstead were spotted and embraced by a then-14-year-old Steven Wilson (more of whom later).
The current Solstice has existed since 2007 and, following 2010’s Spirit, Prophecy is the group’s fifth studio release overall. Unlike Spirit, this one is comprised of all-original material; no wonder it’s a far more coherent, free-flowing and rewarding piece of work. Running for 57 minutes, the record’s five songs and indeed its title were inspired by a native American Indian prophecy. As Glass revealed last issue, they were also meant to be heard as ‘a continuous audio stream’, which explains why each flows so peacefully and melds seamlessly into its nearest neighbour.
Pairing the bewitching vocals of Emma Brown with some eerily fragile guitar playing, Eyes Of Fire is a serene, beautiful introduction to Prophecy’s charms. Glass’s lead guitar solo, when it comes, is deliciously understated. Jenny Newman gets her own opportunity to shine during Keepers Of The Truth, her fruity violin lines enhancing the intertwining contributions of Glass and keyboardist Steve McDaniels. At more than a quarter-of-an-hour long and in an atypical outburst of vigour, Warriors begins with a surging, powerful riff that recurs from time to time during what’s otherwise an appealing slice of soul-searching whimsy.
Divided into what feels like two distinct parts, the deeply harmonious strains of West Wind conjure up atmospheres firstly of an Indian brave on horseback traversing the desert, before signing off with further changes of mood and dynamic. It’s that kind of an album. Finally, Black Water is a further piece of highly evocative music to remove the listener – albeit temporarily – from what might well be a humdrum everyday existence.
With a set of remixes courtesy of Steven Wilson (namely Return Of Spring, Find Yourself and Earth Song), and stunning artwork from Barry Kitson of Spider Man and 2000AD fame, Prophecy is a work of care, consideration and no little skill. It deserves to be heard.