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I Elder close, I kissed her our last kiss - 80%

caspian, October 6th, 2020

Elder remind me of Obsequiae, kinda sorta. I might as well just list why instead of forcing a paragraph about it
a) cheerful, sunny kinda music
b) noodle a lot, rarely bother with riffs but can riff when forced
c) have established a formula and aesthetic that works very well for them
d) the formula is starting to show cracks but at this point still works
So suffice to say, if you liked previous Elder, you will likely enjoy this record too; there are things to critique but no huge dealbreakers.

For those who haven't heard Elder, well, it's not a bad starting point but I'd start with Lore or Floating World first. This progs pretty hard, arguably too hard in places, with the crunchy stoner stuff getting increasingly pushed to the margins of the sound, but (as discussed in point d) it is still a very fun journey. Halcyon does a pretty job of summing everything up about the record, good and bad. Krauty intro, fine and good. Big, patient build to a particularly joyous, kinda riffy climax about 4 and a bit in, yes yes yesyesyesyesyes. So far so good, but the vocals are a downer- strained and really amateurish compared to the lush, complex other instruments- and a lot of the song post-initial-awesome-build is a mix of somewhat confused mid tempo noodling with maybe a few too many Floydian synths bouncing around. You still finish the song with a smile on your face, but do you remember the middle few minutes? The answer o dear gentlesirs and m'ladies is no.

And that's kinda the album summed up really. There are no particularly hateful parts. There are a lot of great moments, I'm particularly fond of that little quiet moment at the start of One Light Retreating for some reason, there's that huge Halcyon bit, and I really like the way Embers riffs around while the clean guitar chimes over the top. Like most Elder, it does a neat job of yanking you out of reality, with bad memes about Trump getting Covid and climate change and whatnot fading into the distance. But it's not a classic. Just a few too many pointless noodly sections which you forget about the instant they've finished. Still, we've all done far worse than this album.

The imagination of the augur - 95%

GrizzlyButts, June 2nd, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, 2 12" vinyls, Armageddon Label (Gatefold)

Turn your laurel backwards for the failed emperor’s appeal, he is cast not only back down to Earth but awakens today to Pluto’s damned warmth beneath. The statue of Jupiter at Olympia has had its last laugh, its scaffolding shaken free of this god-in-the-making and so resumes an eternity of upturned necks, craning to gaze the friezes to founding goddess at the forum. A dream of death, a bolt of lightning, the cries of circling vultures all seize the imagination of augur as exemplum impietatis direct from the ‘Gods’ yet, the tyrant could not listen. If we must share civility under weight of diamonian possession then any true omen itself is a duality, a benefit to some and a vacuous harbinger of death and misfortune to another. Light and dark, cruelty and solidarity, any number of seeming opposing forces create unpleasant grayness for the madness of zealots but where do the reasonable find respite? When faced with branching out, splitting hairs, drawing hard lines within their collaborative fifth work Berlin, Germany based and New Bedford, Massachusetts born progressive heavy psychedelic rock band Elder chose to maximize from every angle, amplifying what’d made the band so unique since their breakthrough third album (‘Lore‘, 2015) in creation of this masterful foray ‘Omens’. Let it be solace in your own personal underworld or, paean to the crumbling illusion of the greater good.

A change of heart, a development of personal creative style, or a substantive self-redirection towards earnest expression makes for the most compelling sort of discography to approach if you’re prone to history and provenance as I. So, a look at Elder‘s ‘then and now’ is both remarkable for its realization of ‘self’ and taste in increasingly capable, complex works and for the lack of self-conscious driver at the wheel. No doubt ‘Omens’ highlights the musical experience more often than their sub-genre driven beginnings, such as their typified-but-blissful stoner/doom metal debut (‘Elder‘, 2008) and the major shift towards psychedelic doom metal on the follow-up (‘Dead Roots Stirring‘, 2011) but Elder had already started expressing traits that’d carry through. 8-10 minute songs became vehicles for progressive rock and metal exploration, always with an edge and some taste for technique that expressed with purpose. The roots of the ‘Omens’ experience were planted with ‘Lore’, the aforementioned breakthrough moment into what I’d consider a rare bout of originality within the adjacent spheres shared by psychedelic rock and doom metal. The shift towards progressive heavy psychedelic rock from that point still fits into my own realm of interest but no doubt the psych-doom metal crowd began to flake away as ‘Reflections of a Floating World‘ (2017) [#40 Best of 2017] had seemingly completed a transformation that incorporated elements of post-rock breathiness, math rock tightened rhythms, classic 70’s progressive rock modus, and even some hints of the kosmische rhythmic trance to come. ‘Omens’ is the deeper realization of Elder‘s vision and range since 2015 with some certain “We can do all of it, more and better.” attitude applied.

There is yet some years of development missing, some key transformative work in side-project Gold & Silver that would help to explain and reinforce the increasingly complex-yet-breathy modernist psychedelic post-rock evolution of the band. ‘The Gold & Silver Sessions‘ (2019) all but plugs in a giant neon glowing sign in suggesting where Elder would go next and they’ve gone there but not just there with ‘Omens’. If you’re still in love with ‘Reflections of a Floating World’ then you’re primed for this next step as you could reduce the experience to that album’s traits with even more memorable songwriting kicks, far deeper layered production, and very complex rhythmic mapping to the point that I’d pulled out a few math rock and technical post-rock instrumentals just to confirm the vibe I’d been getting. The proper comparisons to make are yet modern psych bands like King Buffalo, Weedpecker, and perhaps Bask depending on which album. I’d say one could glean some mid-70’s Uriah Heep, the easier feel of pre-’77 Yes from the experience but it’ll be a stretch as the dramatic rhythmic movements and modern rock vocal cadence don’t match up with the bluesy swing of 70’s rock, instead manifesting as a hybrid of indie rock, jazz infused math rock, and the temporal ooze of progressive post-rock. That’ll sound vague and messy on paper, probably frightening to the curious psychedelic doom metal folks out there looking for heaviness but Elder have not lost themselves, if anything they are -more- themselves than ever despite some line-up changes and freshened sound.

‘Omens’ is intended as a concept album of sorts that examines the span of a civilization from questionable birth to fiery death, entering the world implied with some clairvoyance of the end. You could wholeheartedly embrace the album’s lyrical conflagration of callous and dryly suicidal ‘for profit’ society today but those (perhaps slightly less inflammatory) themes are woven deep into the art, not so blatantly presented. I always go back to a record like ‘Relayer‘ to express my appreciation for higher-brained music that says something timely in a timeless fashion and that feeling most definitely applies here on ‘Omens’. The album itself is contemplative and even more expressive in performance than ‘Reflections of a Floating World’ was, holding onto some empathetic existential dread yet one could just as easily numb out and escape into the buzzing and swaying hard psychedelia of the experience. Second guitarist Michael Risberg had actually guested on that previous album and his work with the other members in Gold & Silver feels completely vital for the evolution of Elder‘s sound as it manifests today. Guest keyboard/synth work from Fabio Cuomo is likewise an essential point of distinction and growth that becomes more prominent as the album progresses, easing beyond adornment of atmospheric motions (“Omens”) and featuring in the main hooks and leads of certain songs (“Halcyon”).

I’d normally dig into the merits of certain songs, herald standout moments and such but it’d feel somewhat futile to pick out just two or three gears from an apparatus that features so many working parts within the five 10-12 minute songs that make up ‘Omens’. Each song has its big hook, its glorious atmospheric waft, a brilliant reprisal or contemplative plateau. Each song has its own complex rhythmic interest, a catchy-yet-cathartic psychedelic set of movements that’ve grown in value across countless spins of ‘Omens’. The full listen becomes captivating, long-winded but blissfully immersive to the point that I’d sit in place longer (or take a longer walk) for the sake of not cutting off Elder‘s impressive sense of flow and momentum. There are hooks, catchy moments that are built up to for minutes on end, that serve to amplify a greater sense of build-and-collapse befitting of the theme of ‘Omens’. This makes for a listening experience that is yearning, nostalgic in spirit but also wide-eyed in hindsight and surrounded by the apocalyptic debris of time and the nature of all men. It’ll be too ‘indie rock’ for some, too psychedelic for others, probably a bit too lucid for folks demanding a more progressive angle, but for my own tastes in the old and new orders of psychedelic and progressive rock ‘Omens’ is the third in a line of engaging psych masterpieces from Elder. A very high recommendation.


A Beam Of Radiance Shining In Dark Times - 97%

Kaustab, May 6th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Armageddon Label

Behold, Elder does it yet again! It’s honestly surprising to see bands coming up with album after album, each unique in its own interesting features, but still not losing any integrity in the process. Their 2011 album, “Dead Roots Stirring”, is really what got Elder into the business. They showed the world that they are capable of reinventing an entire genre. But then they came out after roughly four years with “Lore”, which is (was?) what I would call their magnum opus; but then soon again in 2017, they released “Reflections of a Floating World” – and with that, they truly proved their stance in the genre. And this time with “Omens”, they have made their stature all the more straightened.

Elder is not anything like most of stoner music that we've been hearing. They are truly a one-of-a-kind band. Most people would have argued that Elder have exhausted all the ideas that could have been executed within their style. To be fair, even I did not expect them to be still so clear in framing and presenting their ideas as they have done in Omens – at least not after the two albums that came before it, certainly not!

This is one colourful album, representing ideas (through music) that seem both disjoint yet connected, which is actually what Elder excells at. It is very much like the unconscious mind. Comes up with strange, disconnected ideas; but if some thought is put towards them, they fly together and integrate into a wonderful notion. They have taken psychedelic music to a very progressive front. “Omens” really shows signs of that.

One of the key points about this album is that it is really BRIGHT, insofar as the mood and textures are concerned. Plus, the tracks themselves also hint a little at the “sky-high” feeling that was brilliantly portrayed in their previous album. However, the album is full of exorbitant riffs and really paints a scape of dreams and feelings. The prominent bass in certain portions works more on this escapism. Personally, the vocals sometimes feel a little too airy (perhaps?), but are nevertheless delivered quite well by Nick DiSalvo.

The title track, which is the opener, sets the tone as things begin. When after the intro they make the atmosphere quiet and then drag us along into the very heart of the album, that’s when we know we’re in for a great ride. “In Procession” is quite reminiscent of Dead Roots Stirring, and is probably the “roughest” song on the album. The next song does what stoner metal best does to us, that is to get us musically stoned! Jokes aside, “Halcyon” is like a classic all-round song of the genre. The penultimate song “Embers”, which is their single from this release, is very unique with regards to stoner doom metal. It feels like a monument floating above us, ready to crush us underneath its miraculous weight, leading to the dissolution of our consciousness. However, “One Light Retreating” is truly what stole it for me. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect ending to such an album. It is unfair to talk about highlights for an album that consists of just five tracks (which, by the way, is the classic Elder album structure), but I must say that “One Light Retreating” is in my view the highlight of this album. Really, this whole album appears to me as a bright light shining at us in these dark times. It is a sign of hope – of better things yet to come!

This is ART, and that’s precisely what Elder have made, time after time, and now once again. Beautiful.

Plain and Overwrought in the Same - 90%

Twisted_Psychology, April 24th, 2020

When listening to Elder’s fifth full-length album, I’m caught off guard by how light it feels. The textures have an ethereal brightness throughout, the mood is consistently uplifting, and any trace of the band’s stoner doom roots seems to have been completely scrubbed clean. This move isn’t too surprising when you consider the hints seen on 2017’s Reflections of a Floating World and even 2019’s The Gold & Silver Sessions, but I find myself comparing Omens to the sort of ‘life coach prog’ seen on the recent efforts by Cynic and Anathema.

With this new face presented, the musicians’ technical skills seem to have only been enhanced. The guitars, in particular, are more multi-faceted than they’ve ever been; while the heavy crunch has more in common with Steven Wilson than Electric Wizard, the cadences have that signature twang seen on past releases. The keyboards play a near equal role in shaping the tone with atmospheric filters and 70s-style mellotron. The vocals also have a powerful presence in the mix, even if they still often yield to the near-constant instrumental segments.

Speaking of which, the songwriting also keeps to established Elder tradition as the five tracks present are all elaborate leviathans hovering around the ten to twelve-minute range. “In Procession” comes the closest to reaching the heaviness of albums past though it is supplemented with its share of airy sequences that completely dominate the following “Halcyon.” I must admit that “Embers” feels like a peculiar choice for a lead single with its upbeat nature comes close to alternative rock, but it ultimately comes through.

While Omens is a rather dramatic alteration of the Elder sound on the surface, the construction method behind it remains about the same. The move to an even lighter prog sound will draw even more audiences from outside the metal sphere, but the band can’t really be accused of appealing to the lowest common denominator when the songs are still this long and packed with elaborate musicianship. It may be even more of a grower than usual, but it’s packed with the same focus and inspiration.

“In Procession”

Originally published at Indy Metal Vault