Thursday 23 April 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Elder, "Omens"

By: Andrew Field

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 24/04/2020
Label: Stickman Records

“Omens” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Omens
2). In Procession
3). Halcyon
4). Embers
5). One Light Retreating

The Review:

“Omens” is the destination Elder have been promising to arrive at since 2011’s “Dead Roots Stirring”. If “Lore” (2015) and “Reflections of a Floating World” (2017) were the building blocks, “Omens” is the finished product and a staggering summation of all that makes this powerhouse quartet so essential in 2020.

The fearlessness with which they’ve approached this record is testament to their confidence and maturity, gained from 15 years of honing their craft. Across five songs and 56 minutes Elder take the listener on a sonically beautiful journey whilst lyrically – as ever – things are notably darker. That light and shade pays off time and time again as “Omens” envelopes you. Put on your headphones and wonder at the detail, which is at times breath-taking.

Nick DilSalvo is on record as saying the writing process for “Omens” was long and tedious but rewarding. You honestly wouldn’t know. It all sounds so natural, with the ebb and flow of their technically dense music made fully accessible for the first time. “Omens” is by far the best-sounding Elder album: every instrument breathes and has its own clear space in the mix.

The appeal of “Omens” is encapsulated in its title track, which opens the record. It’s an 11-minute modern progressive psychedelic masterpiece featuring chiming guitars and Michael Risberg’s keyboard flourishes and wooshes. It brings to mind, wide open spaces, traveling and moving, forward motion. It is both of the 1970s and of now. Much like Jack Donovan’s beloved Rush, “Omens” is their Clockwork Angels to Lore’s Moving Pictures: an album that could only have been made when you’ve paid your dues and really learned how to do things. Donovan’s fingers still delightfully run up and down his fretboard. DiSalvo still picks at his strings and creates delightfully original motifs. The dirt under the fingernails of their stoner doom years has largely gone now, and that’s not a bad thing at all based on the evidence presented here.

“In Procession” is stunning. It builds from a wah guitar entrance into a DiSalvo picked riff over which an echo-drenched keyboard tinkles and chimes, before abruptly opening up into a massive heavy passage which is pure “Lore”. The second half of this 13-minute epic is where Elder really fly. It’s a majestic, serene, dynamic passage built over a deft and light George Edert shuffle. It will cover you in goosebumps.

Elsewhere “Embers” throws you right off guard, starting like The Tragically Hip with its college rock vocals before morphing into a pure prog section full of time changes and sweeping chords.  Album closer “One Light Retreating” is a better sounding “Reflections”: the spirit of “Lore” meets jamming of “The Gold and Silver sessions”. Yet whilst it pays back to those albums, it sounds completely distinct from them. 

Like all the best albums, “Omens” rewards repeated listens. Once familiar with its themes and structure you will find yourself focusing on the intricacies which lie within its grooves, those magic moments which make the record so interesting and special. Once it’s under your skin you’ll likely want to immerse yourself in it for an extended period of time, coming back to it time and again. 

It’s exciting that Elder are still exploring, still diversifying, still developing their sound and style. The results of their recent labours are masterful and electrifying. We might only be in April, but “Omens” is an early candidate for album of the year.

“Omens” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook