Solarhall is a new alternative/progressive rock band from Hämeenlinna/Finland, formed by singer/songwriter Otto Juutilainen, who also plays keyboards and rhythm guitar. Influences of the four-piece ensemble range from Frank Zappa and Wigwam to Opeth, Aphex Twin and Stravinsky, and the debut Lokus confirms the maturity and versatility implied by these names. The mellow, meandering opener “Fenix” offers an apt introduction; the following two songs are relatively straightforward rockers compared to the rest (although the entrance of the vocals in “Broken Man” reminds me of The Ocean’s “Mesopelagic: Into the Uncanny” which is anything but straightforward) but the short “The Wolf And The City” takes back the tempo and paves the way towards the three songs that, in my opinion, form the heart of this album. “Shelter” with its beautiful middle part and strong climax harks back to the best tradition of Finnish 1970s prog, the multifaceted “Sewer Man” manages to maintain the arc of suspension throughout its entire eleven-minute span and the tranquil “Engulfed In Green” is pure balm for the soul before the album ends on a contrasting note with the more experimental “All Gods Live in Dark Houses”.
The tracks on Lokus may not all be equally strong, but their variety is the very strength of this band and the whole makes for a highly promising debut. Also of note is the unusual cover artwork, which features a sculpture by frontman Otto’s brother Olli Juutilainen.