On the page at Pythia’s website where they announce The Solace of Ancient Earth, the band references a Stephen King quote, “Go then, there are other worlds than these…” It’s appropriate not only because it comes from “The Dark Tower,” the J.R.R. Tolkien-based inspiration for the record, but also because his writing is often accused of overwrought verbosity, and such charges can easily be leveled at the band as well.
Of course, for symphonic metal, this is a feature, not a bug, and you can’t blame the United Kingdom band for pulling out all the stops on this, their fourth album. Since the 2014 release of Shadow of a Broken Past, half of the group has been replaced by new members. Most notably, founding vocalist Emily Ovenden, whose Raven-haired presence and classically trained voice defined Pythia’s gothic take on symphonic power metal, has been replaced by Sophie Dorman.
Dorman is a perfect fit in every way. She lives in Reading, a short train ride to London, and has a background in classical and power metal. The similarities don’t end there; she even looks a little like her predecessor, and she is just as capable as a vocalist. The band showcases this right at the start with “An Earthen Lament,” where she triumphantly uses every bit of her “almost three octave” range.
The band obliged the new vocalist by remaining steady musically. Marcus Matusiak’s keyboard flourishes perhaps take on a larger role at times, whereas on the likes of “Spirit of the Trees” and “Your Dark Reign,” guitarists Ross White and Jamie Hunt show they are able to churn out more solid riffs than many of their peers. The band attempts to reign in more overt progressive tendencies in favor of solid, memorable songcraft (see the power ballad “Dawn Will Come”), but even the relatively straightforward is majestic in Pythia’s hands.
Although The Solace of Ancient Earth does not quite elevate the art form where it might find appeal from metal fans beyond those who pine for every note from Nightwish and Xandria, it is a solid album that fans of symphonic metal in general—and Pythia in particular—will enjoy.