Elder – ‘Omens’

By Ellie Odurny

Elder’s fifth full length release is their first as a quartet, having added former guest guitarist Michael Risberg to the line-up, as well as welcoming new drummer Georg Edert to replace Matt Couto. This new addition of an extra member is evident in the depth of sound throughout this latest record, and contributes to the band’s sonic evolution from their stoner rock beginnings to this proggier, multi-faceted release. While their sound might have changed, the length of their tunes remains a constant, with ‘Omens’ containing just five tracks, each around the ten-minute mark.

Opening title track ‘Omens’ is a journey through Elder’s various unique blend of genres, complete with psychedelic keys, unpredictable prog rhythms, doomy downtuning, and solid rock guitar sections. The breakdown in the last few minutes is an excellent reminder that despite morphing towards a lighter overall sound, Elder can still deliver solid heavy basslines and hefty riffs.

‘In Procession’, the shortest number on the album, is also perhaps the only track that drags, as the gentler, cleaner vocals don’t do justice to the complex guitar and rhythm sections. There are good moments hidden within, from the big distorted intro to the air of retro psychedelia from the keys, but there’s still something lacking that stems from those bare vocals.

‘Halcyon’ sees a return to a much stronger prog rock vibe, with irregular time signatures spanning the near 13-minute epic. There’s an element of post rock in the dreamy instrumentals, and the track closes with a drifting Tubular Bells-esque refrain underpinning a chunky prog guitar riff. This lengthy outro has the faintest hint of discord, which keeps the track interesting and firmly cements this release in prog territory.

It feels somewhat unfair to highlight Elder’s vocal weaknesses again, but as with ‘In Procession’, the softer vocals on ‘Embers’ are not the stand out of this release. In contrast to the band’s earlier output, where the doomy guitars married with a much muddier vocal, the cleaner melodies leave the vocal line exposed and at times it’s distracting in its lack of maturity, particularly in comparison with the accomplished writing and performance levels elsewhere. There is, however, something endearing about the simplicity of Nicholas DiSalvo’s singing in ‘Embers’, the first single to be released from ‘Omens’. It highlights a raw innocence, giving the finished record an air of authenticity that would be lost with a more overproduced edit.

‘One Light Retreating’ puts the focus back on soaring guitars and solid drums and ends with a glorious atmospheric dreamscape of synth into one final riff. It’s a fitting end to an album that takes the listener on a journey that’s mostly a delightful treat for the ears. Packed full of skilful writing, ingenious layering and winding soundscapes, it’s a record that keeps throwing out new twists and turns, even past the third or fourth listen.

‘Omens’ has a considerably different feel to Elder’s earlier offerings, but the band’s sound has progressed in an organic way, meandering through various rock and metal subgenres with a natural ease. Gone are the sludgy, doom rock beats and fuzzy vocals, and in their place are dreamy synths, imaginative melodies, and complex rhythms. Quite where Elder will go next is anyone’s guess, but it’s sure to be an interesting ride.

ELLIE ODURNY

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