Album Review: ELDER Reflections of a Floating World
Few bands are as adept at taking listeners on a journey through sprawling soundscapes as Elder. Though they may have began as a simple stoner metal band, they have become one of heavy music's most creative, artistic and affecting trios, painting rich sonic canvases and effortlessly crafting timeless songs that traverse various genres and styles. It's arguable that the band's last two albums, Dead Roots Stirring and Lore are two of the best progressive doom albums this side of the century; both feature riffs, melodies and masterful songcraft that showcase a band clearly doing something new and different in a genre that's become quite sterile as of late. It's hard to imagine how Elder could even top an album like Lore, but rest assured, their magnum opus – up to this point in their career, at least – comes in the form of Reflections of a Floating World.
As the opening riff of "Sanctuary" fills the ears, it's evident that a sprawling musical journey lies ahead. While still firmly rooted in a fuzz-laden stoner/doom foundation, Elder has become a giant all their own in the metal world, though it's a stretch to even call them "metal" in the traditional sense anymore. Peel back the layers and flourishes of classic prog, krautrock and indie begin to sprout. Their career trajectory is most similar to Opeth at this point, and after this record, who knows where it will go. One thing's for certain though: Reflections of a Floating World is an extremely special piece of art. It's an album that demands patience, and will take multiple play-throughs to reap the full fruits from. Once those fruits are fully realized, however, it's a record that's impossible not to keep coming back to.
The majority of the compositions found on the record are no shorter than 10 minutes long, but the genius of Elder lies in the fact that none of them feel too long. What's more is that they're able to keep the musicality of each song fresh and varied, making the album as a whole extremely dense and layered. Vocalist/guitarist Nick DiSalvo has clearly improved his vocal range since Lore, and listening to him howl the verses of "The Falling Veil" show a frontman who is becoming more and more confident in his abilities. That he's able to do so while crafting a collage of sonic textures and atmospheres with his guitar is only a testament to his talent. These textures are only expanded upon by the rhythm section comprised of bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, in addition to guest musicians Michael Risberg and Michael Samos on second guitar and pedal steel, respectively.
The striking cover art painted by ever-so-talented Adrian Dexter is another staple of this record. It's the perfect visual representation of the musical voyage contained within and does wonders for truly bringing the listener to another place. And that's exactly what Reflections of a Floating World does. Music is supposed to transport us somewhere else, and this is a quality that's not lost on Elder. Drop the needle, throw on your best pair of headphones, and let Elder take you away. It's an adventure that won't be soon forgotten.
Follow Aaron on Twitter for musings about metal and more.