REVIEWED: Elder - 'Omens'
Unless you have the incredible misfortune to be this generation's children, your parents will have awesome music taste. Think about it. They had the chance to see Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Status Quo, Genesis, Rush – all in their prime and pomp, when they were producing their best work. If you're in your mid-30s, what have we got? Some wallet chains, Criminal Damage jeans the size of a tent and the soaking power of top tier kitchen roll, and a few vague embarrassed memories of Korn and Limp Bizkit, before we started to explore the bands that (deny) they influenced them. Aside from a feeling of nostalgia, what feelings do they invoke?
Right, that's enough embarrassed sniggering and shuffling of feet now. The point of this preamble is not to decry a musical dead end, but to celebrate one of the most satisfying parts of being a music fan: seeing how a band grows and develops through their career and records, comparing and contrasting and seeing where they go to next. Elder were teenagers when they released their self-titled debut back in 2008, and they were special even back then. Sludgy and heavy with a powerful Sabbathian groove, they were marked as ones to watch and they certainly matured. Over the last decade they've opened up their epic and claustrophobic riffing into something altogether more expansive and groovy. 'Reflections of a Floating World' was the herald of a slightly new direction back in 2017, hailing to the likes of the German progressive hypnotism of Can and Neu! as it did the deep oozing lava-like flow of riffs like ISIS, and last year's 'Gold & Silver Sessions' EP pointed the way to this, 'Omens', their fifth full length, full of labyrinthine melodies expertly crafted around every twist and turn to keep you guessing what's around the next bend. Swirling synths are the herald to the first of many psychedelic riffs that bludgeon as much as they beguile. It's ten minutes of sheer bliss and that's only the start of the record: 'In Procession' revisits some of their older tonal territory they started their career on with a churning bass thudding to a morse-like drum beat before their new sticksman Georg Edert shows his agility around the kit. It's an open invitation for twin guitar harmonies and keyboards to skip around the rhythms and they duly do. The keyboard makes another appearance on the cyclical fizz of 'Halcyon' patiently building up as beautiful and hypnotic as watching the sun rise or the tides come in, to post-metal stomp in a major key that somehow sounds frightened and hopeful at the same time before a tinkling lullaby emerges from underneath to put it all to bed. So far that's half an hour of music in those three songs and we've not even covered all of Elder's sonic territory yet; 'Embers' has the feel of a frantic post-hardcore twin guitars roaming around writhing time signatures, together with the soaring clean vocals that have been their favoured style since the 'Dead Roots Stirring' swapped out the heavy throated growl in favour of more dulcet tones.
Perhaps it's bittersweet, but the only thing to say is that at five tracks this album is too damn short, and with a finale like 'One Light Retreating' showing Elder's softer side, who can argue? As with every track, it shows how far they're willing to reach for new sources of inspiration, with an acoustic fingerpicking element in the arpeggios that fall like autumn leaves and a finale that's every bit as cinematic as every other song that makes up 'Omens' as a record that deserves – and needs to be - listened to again and again. Elder continue to grow and evolve, and the years have been kind to a band that have the songwriting width and breadth to to go with the length and effortlessly epic. Who knows where they will go next? Maybe our generation's music taste wasn't so bad after all if we can point to the respect that Elder have earned.
'Omens' is out now on Armageddon Label