In October 2012, the new trio Solar Halos released a short set of rough, promising demos online, quickly earning favorable attention locally and beyond. The trio's bona fides—area veterans of Horseback, Fin Fang Foom, Bellafea, Caltrop and the Curtains of Night—didn't hurt, but the band's distinct approach to heavy music helped more.
"We talked about wanting to be heavy, but not necessarily aggressive," frontwoman Nora Rogers told the British magazine Rock-A-Rolla. "The band had to be something we could use to explore, not a path to follow."
With the release of a proper debut LP, Solar Halos capitalizes on that quest. Rogers swaps the charred, shrieking doom of her time in Curtains of Night for a more deliberate, melodic approach to riffs and vocals. The moody throb that bassist Eddie Sanchez supplied Fin Fang Foom is even stronger here, giving Solar Halos a strong undertow that complements the heavy swing of John Crouch's blues-metal drumming.
This stuff's not without metal referents, but the signposts point toward the genre's boundaries: Pallbearer's downcast ballads, Om's mantra-metal, even Wolves In The Throne Room's neo-pagan roar. But there's little darkness to Solar Halos, despite the doom tag that often follows them. Instead, the surging melodies and thematic uplift feel more like a naturalist hymnal, fitting for a band named for a surreal natural phenomenon. This is less like metal than alchemy.
Though Solar Halos is essentially a rerecorded demo with two new songs, the reprises aren't redundant. Where the demo was self-recorded in a Chapel Hill industrial shop, the LP received a more detailed treatment from producer Nick Petersen at Chapel Hill's Revival Music Recording Studios. The extra attention showcases cleaner tones and a tighter performance, virtues that only help reveal Solar Halos' not-exactly-metal foundations.
Label: Devouter Records
This article appeared in print with the headline "Histories and Frontiers."