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Review: Sol Invictus – Lex Talionis (1993/2008)

 

1993 CD cover
1993 CD
2008 CD reissue
2008 CD reissue

artist: Sol Invictus
release: Lex Talionis
format: CD
year of release: 1993, 2008
label: Tursa (1993), Infinite Fog (2008)
duration: 51:56

detailed info: discogs.com

Lex Talionis is one of the more important albums from the early days of neofolk mainstays Sol Invictus. It was released in 1990, the same year as Trees in Winter, but as part of a limited vinyl box set together with Current 93 and Nurse With Wound. It was released on CD (without the track “Reynardine”) by Tursa in 1993, which is probably the version that most people will be familiar with. However, as we all know, this was 15 years ago, and the album has been long out of print. That’s why it’s good news for younger Sol Invictus enthusiasts that the Russian label Infinite Fog has produced a fine digipak reissue, limited to 1001 copies.

Now, the obvious question for any reissue of an older album is whether it has stood the test of time. Let me begin by saying that compared to its contemporary, the quite excellent Trees in Winter, I believe Lex Talionis falls short in several areas. The problem is definitely not in the area of songwriting; the album contains tracks like “The Ruins” and “Kneel to the Cross” that I consider classic anthems of the genre, albeit in the superb versions on the 1994 album The Death of the West. The versions on the current album, however, sound like rough demos, with mediocre performance by both Tony Wakeford and Ian Read, who sounded much more in form on Trees in Winter. And this goes for many of the other tracks as well. The songwriting is at a high level, but the execution is lacking here and there.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any truly worthwhile tracks on this album, which deals thematically with the laws of just compensation (lex talionis) and nature’s cruelty (tooth and claw). To begin with, there’s the marvellous “Black Easter”, combining a heavy and noisy musical base with the ritual folk chanting of “we take death out the village, we bring summer into the village.” The calmer neofolk style of “Tooth and Claw” is also a well-succeeded point of rest in the middle of the album. Equally enjoyable is the combination of traditional and neofolk in “Abattoirs of Love”. Finally, the bonus track on the latest version of this album is not to be missed, a stirring live recording of “Black Easter” as the band performs it today, featuring among others Andrew King on percussion and vocals.

Weighing all impressions together, I’d say Lex Talionis is mainly interesting for fans of the band, who haven’t been able to acquire an older copy. They should be served quite well by this tasteful reissue. Others might do better to check out Trees in Winter for a highlight from the early period, or one of the more recent albums such as In a Garden Green or The Devil’s Steed.

Reviewed by O.S.

Tracklist:

1. Blood and Wine (1:32)
2. Lex Talionis (6:01)
3. Black Easter (4:29)
4. Kneel to the Cross (4:47)
5. The Ruins (2:50)
6. Tooth and Claw (6:52)
7. Blood Against Gold (4:24)
8. Fields (3:56)
9. Abattoirs of Love (5:23)
10. Heroes Day (2:39)
11. Rex Talionis (2:24)
12. Wine and Blood (2:24)

13. Black Easter (Live) (4:15)