Founded in 1987 by English musician Tony Wakeford, Sol Invictus is one of the most prolific and influential bands associated with neo-folk or apocalyptic folk, along with Current 93 and Death in June. Wakeford uses the term "folk noir" to describe his work. The group combines acoustic guitars and neo-classical instrumentation with elements of industrial electronics, and lyrics reflecting a pessimistic view of modern society, with later releases containing more personal lyrical themes. Wakeford has been the only constant member of the group, but other contributors have included Ian Read, Karl Blake, and Gareth Smith.
Wakeford had been in '70s punk group Crisis before co-founding Death in June with Douglas P. (also formerly of Crisis) and Patrick Leagas during the early '80s. Wakeford was dismissed from the band in 1984 and started the post-punk group Above the Ruins, which proved to be controversial due to their association with right-wing politics. Wakeford disbanded the group and distanced himself from those views, forming Sol Invictus in 1987. Debut album Against the Modern World appeared on L.A.Y.L.A.H. (also home to releases by Coil, Nurse with Wound, and the Hafler Trio) in 1988. The album had a dark post-punk sound with elements of what would would later be termed "martial industrial." The live album In the Jaws of the Serpent (which featured Rose McDowall on drums) appeared on S.V.L. Records in 1989.
In 1990 Wakeford founded the Tursa label, which gained distribution by World Serpent. Sol Invictus' Trees in Winter was the label's first release, and numerous albums by the group followed well into the next decade. They gradually shifted into more of a neo-classical style, with the side project L'Orchestre Noir further exploring this direction. Wakeford also released collaborative albums with Steven Stapleton (Nurse with Wound), American painter/musician Tor Lundvall (whose artwork often graces the covers of Sol Invictus releases), and Matt Howden. Eventually, Cold Spring began to distribute the group's music after World Serpent folded sometime during the 2000s. Tursa was relaunched in 2007, and two years later, Sol Invictus signed to Auerbach Tonträger, a neo-folk sublabel of Prophecy Productions, subsequently severing ties with Cold Spring. Auerbach released deluxe versions of the group's catalog, as well as the comprehensive box set The Collected Works in 2011. The 2013 single "Mr. Cruel" preceded the studio album Once Upon a Time, which appeared in 2014. Another single, "The Last Man," was issued in 2016, in anticipation of the full-length Necropolis. ~ Paul Simpson