Elder has taken an interesting and wondrous journey in their 14-year existence. Their first two albums were solid, bristling examples of modern stoner doom that brought all the nutritious dishes to the table, and got them on a good footing with the doom fraternity. Their next two albums, 2015’s Lore and 2017’s Reflections of a Floating World, upped the ante as they moved decisively and comfortably in a more sludgy Mastodon/Baroness direction, complete with proggy, extended instrumental sections that took their music to a totally new level of both success and fan support. 2019 saw them release The Gold & Silver Sessions EP, a 3-song fully instrumental affair that had them experimenting with psychedelic jams in a more stoner rock area – whilst it wasn’t a classic release in their discography (and it wasn’t intended to be), it certainly showed what lay on the horizon for these sonic cosmonauts.
Thus, we find them with their new record, the astonishing Omens. They have effectively married the psychedelic free-flowing streams with all the strengths of their previous work, and the result is a blower of minds. The vocals of Nick DiSalvo are a lot cleaner and more melodic than ever before which, whilst it may cause older fans to balk, is perfectly in-line with what they are aiming to achieve – his soaring voice adds an extra dimension and overall epicness to the proceedings, a soaring of the flow that shoots the melodies to the heavens and beyond. His throaty growl still makes itself known, but only if and when the music requires it, and it now has more impact than ever before. The rest of the band shows how tight they are in the extended sections where the sprawling, vast areas are hard to navigate, and they play as if one person with a singular directive (like the Borg Collective, but with less assimilation and robot parts).
With only five songs laid into the 55-minute run-time, the usual Elder song-length is still in place, and there’s not a second wasted. The title track opens the album up with almost 11 minutes of cosmic exploration and a defiant “yeah, this is what we sound like, whether you like it or not” vibe. They manage to ride the desert rock road without all the unnecessary trappings, keeping the metal strength in the spine and coming up with catchy, effervescent blasts of wonder. “In Procession” carries this torch even further with guitar histrionics and driving, heavy rhythm that ebbs into a spacey trip (invoking a tasty Hawkwind approach to the composition).
The longest song is “Halcyon” which reverses the format of the previous song by starting out with the expansive instrumentation that oozes into a rocking climax, leaving the listener with beads of sweat on the brow and supremely satisfied. “Embers” takes the earlier tracks and expands the mind, and “One Light Retreating” treats us to epic Elder-isms that meet up with tender, uber-progressive keys but gives us one final clout to the pip before releasing us to the starry night.
Elder has always been a forward-thinking band that refuses to rest on their laurels and keep their eyes on the future. With Omens, they give us a body of work that shows that even if it’s no longer your cup of tea stylistically, it’s definitely the creation of people that love to play around with sound, and can do it with class and style. That said, they have carefully eased us into the current direction over the past few years, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to their fans. What is a surprise, though, is how well they are able to put everything together and just how capable they are of kicking out the jams in any way they see fit. It’s a phenomenal record that deserves all kudos, and it’s downright enjoyable to boot.
Omens Track Listing:
2. In Procession
5. One Light Retreating
Run Time: 55 minutes
Release Date: April 24, 2020
Record Label: Armageddon Label