Solace (noun): “comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness” (verb): “give comfort or consolation to”. For Gorilla Riot frontman Arjun Bhishma both descriptions of the title of the Mancunians latest EP are pretty apt; “Solace began as a solo project for me, as they are four very personal songs that I didn’t think would fit with the band. I initially wanted to be the only one on these songs and just take on the difficult headspace that they represent for me.” Faced with months of uncertainty thanks to lockdown, Bhishma brought the songs to his bandmates who liked them, and soon enough the decision was made to turn ‘Solace’ into a stop-gap band project, Arjun saying; “The boys liked the songs and, as always, took them to a level that I could never have imagined, bringing more nuance, texture and meaning to each song. We also recruited two of the most beautiful voices that we know, and our close friends, SJ and Luci to bring a female touch to the tunes.” The end result is an EP consisting of four tracks steeped in the same waters that birthed Alice In Chains seminal pair of EP’s; ‘Sap’ and ‘Jar Of Flies’.
Dealing with subjects such as suicide and depression, and as previously mentioned ‘Solace’ was recorded during lockdown – “ it’s simply a snapshot of where we were during the pandemic, with a not so optimistic feel to it. At least it’s honest” – so it is not meant to be cheery. There is no glimmer of hope to be found within, instead, it is stark, brutally honest, and beautifully performed. The decision to make it a band effort rather than a solo project pays off almost instantly when the soft, gentle acoustic guitars on opening track ‘Drowned’ kick in. Boasting three guitarists, Gorilla Riot are quite a formidable force in a live setting, the different guitar styles compliment each other exquisitely and this continues on ‘Solace’. When one guitarist is soloing, the other two are laying down a bedrock of subtle rhythm guitar to provide some foundation. Bhishma’s harrowing vocals are, at times, almost confessional, and upon searching Google for “authenticity” it should simply say “see Arjun Bhishma”. Wonderfully restrained, Bhishma obviously has more in the tank but chooses to play it low-key, as that’s what the songs require. The staggering ‘Late That Year’ could have ended up a car crash had Gorilla Riot not resisted the urge to overcook it. Played at an almost waltz-like pace, it is a gorgeous slice of grunge-meets-Americana with Everly Brothers-like melodies. Simply beautiful. As is its immediate predecessor ‘Sometimes Birds Never Fly’; another gorgeous piece of music that is helped along by some subtle backing vocals and shared vocals between Bhishma, SJ, and Luci. Almost like Willie Nelson collaborating with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. Ending on ‘Talk Back’, we find Gorilla Riot on more familiar Alice In Chains-like territory, but with female co-vocals sneaking in to almost steal the show.
As far as stop-gaps go, this one is indeed pretty damn special. Gorilla Riot are a band that marches to the beat of their own drum, an admirable quality that pays off time after time.
Purchase ‘Solace’, here.
The EP coincides with the recent announcement of a UK co-headline tour with fellow rock dirtbags, Doomsday Outlaw, playing in 5 Academy Group venues across England.
The dates include:
Thurs 10 Feb – O2 Academy2, Islington
Fri 11 Feb – O2 Academy2, Liverpool
Thur 17 Feb – O2 Institute3, Birmingham
Fri 18 Feb – O2 Academy2, Leicester
Sat 19 Feb – O2 Academy2, Sheffield
Review – Dave