This album is a holy grail of sorts for fans of Floridian death metal. Solstice was fronted by Rob Barrett who would later join (and leave...and rejoin) Cannibal Corpse. Listening to
The Sentencing, it's easy to hear why Barrett was chosen as the singer for this recording session. I never realized he had such a cool, throaty voice. He's not a death vocalist in the modern sense. He sounds like a young, demonic Max Cavalera, and his urgent screams augment the adrenaline-pumping music. This shit is lethal. Imagine if death metal was a person. Now imagine that person hopped up on speed and bleeding heroin from every orifice. That's Solstice.

Unfortunately, Rob left the band after this album. The follow-up, 1995's Pray, is rock solid, but it doesn't match the piercing intensity of The Sentencing. These songs peel your groin. They ignite your temples. They fuck your eye sockets. Okay, you get the idea. What kind of metal does Solstice play? High-speed thrash/death metal with purling squirts of New York hardcore. Every song violently barrels through tempo changes and dizzying leads. The musicianship is, shall we say, athletic. Tunes like "Transmogrified" and "Cleansed of Impurity" are maliciously heavy, throwing it down like they want to kill your stereo system.

What's a classic death metal album without guest solos by James Murphy? James Murphy kicks your ass, and the sooner you know it, the better. I love his stratospheric shredding on "Netherworld," which may be my favorite song on this disc. It's one of the best songs that Murphy has ever played on period. I have to mention the rad artwork by Ed Repka. Repka is a legendary metal cover artist with an instantly recognizable style. He did the artwork for Death's Leprosy and Spiritual Healing. Need I say more? The album was engineered by Scott Burns, another death metal staple. The production is loud and fucking raw. I'd love to hear it on vinyl.

Included is a well-placed cover of Carnivore's "S.M.D." I like to refer to it as the cherry on top. The bottom line is that you want The Sentencing if you consider yourself to be a death metal buff. The first pressing didn't have a title, so keep your eyes gouged for a self-titled Solstice release. If you can find this album under any title, you're one lucky bastard. The band has recently reformed with different members and they're about to release a new collection of ripping death/thrash numbers. I wish that Rob Barrett could have been a part of the reunion, but hey, I'll take the new Solstice over no Solstice. Robert Z'Dar says, "horns up!"

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