While much maligned (perhaps unfairly so) over the years for their against-the-grain chosen path of classic, cock-rock, there’s no denying that The Answer have been reliable in producing records that, while tongue-in-cheek in their self-indulgence, have contained enough clout to keep their tight fanbase hooked. Solas, the latest effort from Cormac Neeson and crew, sees the Co. Down outfit off on a sort of reflective journey of musical discovery that for the most part is enjoyable in so far as it is inoffensive.
The story behind the slight change of direction is one of sadness and turmoil, surrounding Neeson’s infant son, Dabhog, who, born three months premature in 2015, suffered a multitude of health issues – prompting Neeson and his band of brothers to reconnect with both their Irish identity and the gift of existence itself. If anything, what Solas lacks in pure polished, urgent riffery, it makes up for in its celebratory nod to music that’s inherently Irish; despite that being a motif that usually demonstrates a style over substance end product.
A mixed, yet colourful bag in terms of arrangement and execution, Solas has its moments of glory – ‘Battle Cry (Seo An La Mo Laoch Mo Ghra)‘, for instance, is reminiscent of Gary Moore’s quiter moment spent in Thin Lizzy, all rollicking acoustic guitars and distinctive Celtic harmonies creeping through the melodies. ‘In This Land’ is similar fare, ramping up the intensity, crescendoing rather brilliantly to achieve an almost shoe-gaze melodic imperative, while ‘Demon Driven Man’ shines through as a welcome amalgamation of what The Answer have sought to achieve with Solas – that piston-powered sound of old, but charged into new territory.
To some degree it’s a refreshing statement from a band that have been admonished in the past for never quite straying from a defined path, but Solas can occasionally be overtly forceful in dragging the listener in to their brave new world. As experiments go though, The Answer may well have created more room to stir the cauldron in future, and from a band as well-schooled as they, Solas should pay dividends down the line.