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: dis​cogs​.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)