Reflections of a Floating World reviews
caspian on March 7th, 2018
Make stoner doom great again
Man this is good... Count me as very pleasantly surprised. I rather enjoyed Dead Roots Stirring back in the day, but it's fair to say I've listened to stoner doom perhaps 10 times in the last 5 years (Conan aside, although I'm not sure if they're sonically anywhere near similar)- just completely burnt out on the stuff. Completely burnt out on the same old riffs, on the same guitar tone, on the exact same vocals, on the same lyrics, on substituting actual good riffing with a lot of distortion, etc etc. I downloaded this out of vague curiousity, not expecting much of anything.
But yeah, Elder- well, these guys are different. Not hugely different- same guitar tone that about 10000 other bands have, similar vocals, but the guitar playing is streets ahead of most other bands, and the songwriting is genuinely interesting. It's genuinely psychedelic music, as opposed to a the turgid haze most stoner bands put out. To use a horribly abused word- it's epic. It's grand, and while the lyrics strike me as placeholders, the music itself has plenty of interesting tales to tell. I'm very much reminded of Black Hell's "How the Rest was Lost", where a lot of well trodden stoner doom ideas are arranged in ways that end up as really vast, widescreen sort of stuff.
There's also the way Elder have managed to throw in a bit of new stuff that helps makes this album as big and fresh as it is. Sanctuary's absolutely massive closing riff is closer to Pelican or even Boris than anything Sabbath or Sleep or Hendrix ever did; a huge transcendent floaty thing, kinda like if jellyfish could fly and if they were glow in the dark. Essentially, Elder have gathered most of the other loud guitar music genres that operate in similar tempos- prog, psych, and yeah, a touch of post- and thrown that in with their already well established cheerful-and-occasionally-heavy usual fare. It's a well done match, and the result is probably the most interesting guitar playing I've heard in a stoner doom band (if Elder can still be called that) for a very long time. Lots of excursions up the neck, a bunch of different scales, a cheerful, fairly busy style that's never wanky but suggests someone who has thought through their guitar parts with a lot of care.
It's a pretty magical listen, honestly. Sanctuary and Falling Veil start the whole thing off on a great note and it doesn't really taper off. It's escapist music at its' absolute finest- I wouldn't recommend operating heavy equipment while listening to this. It just sucks you in and next moment you're looking at the sky and it's got two suns. Or something? I can go with more bad bits of writing like that but suffice to say this is a fantastically distracting album, and you'll get sucked into another world in no time.
I'm not going to say Elder have "restored my faith in stoner metal" or anything, because this is fairly far removed from that term. I will say that Elder have produced an absolute banger of an album here- really worth checking out.
Subtemplum1 on June 9th, 2017
Another monumental saga of mindaltering prog metal
Elder first outgrew their earlier heavy and sludgey doom metal roots in 2011's Dead Roots Stirring by offering constantly-evolving song compositions with more heavy stoner rock- accessible melodies. In 2015, this musical evolutionary leap was expanded further with even more dynamic songwriting and even more prog rock-like tempo changes, unexpected bridges, and sudden jamming frenzies with their globally-groundbreaking psychedelic prog metal album Lore. Elder fans since had not known what direction Elder could explore to possibly further the complexity of this new prog metal sound, and yet, the trio Elder accomplishes exactly what their "next level" sound can achieve--adding two additional studio musicians for their newest opus: Reflections of a Floating World.
For listeners wondering if the increase in prog elements would detract from their signature heavy sound, the answer is hardly at all: with only one truly ambient interlude, Sonntag, the music on Reflections gives thunderous credence to earlier chugging, bombastic doom sounds while offering a lilting current of shoegazey moments first developed on Lore. The album's opener, Sanctuary, delivers its promise of experimental heaviness. Guitar prodigy Nick DiSalvo begins the intro riff with an earthy chord whose three-note chug is immediately lifted by a glorious ethereal melody, soon repeated with the full band's tectonic eruption and sprawling into an organic-sounding emotional climax of new ideas. Multiple bridges and a victorious yet spacey outro riff perfectly establish the mood of this album: an exploration into astral territories while seamlessly returning to frequent heavy, fuzz-laden grounding.
The new lineup's desire to channel cosmic. psychedelic moments are eminently realized on track two, The Falling Veil. A guessing game of "where will this riff go?" Is played out to the extreme, effortlessly varying between softer and heavier passages, and given a new level of breadth with DiSalvo's more refined vocals. This song used as a sample teaser for the album helped establish the fact that their new material would rival, if not outdo, the harmonious aspects of the sound integrated on Lore, and solidify itself as a worthy contender as an even more mythical successor. Staving Off Truth introduces unheard-of textures and soundscapes as craved by the audience's ever-growing expectations. The result? Absolute, transcendent beauty defying description.
One track stands out as an impossible feat to top for future albums (though they always do!). That track is the longest and arguably most epic: Blind. Characteristic of the classic prog forefathers, Blind exemplifies the idea of a repetition in structure building upon itself towards greater and greater heights. At times, DiSalvo's vocals appear stretched to their limit in range, but hardly fail in contributing to the powerful sound we have come to cherish. Use of an additional guitarist is best observed here, with brilliant layering of styles often converging or complimenting each other. The warmth of their love of music glows through the raw emotionality and becomes even more evident with the incorporation of a gorgeous mellotron sound.
For fans of traditional stoner metal, this album warrants additional listens to fully comprehend the unusual directions and prog-like experimentation. However, for fans of European stoner rock bands such as Mother Engine, Motorpsyyho, or Colour Haze, this album will come to feel like a natural, unique direction in sonic ability. In the stoner metal genre, becoming crushed by the sheer heaviness in sound is the norm. And yet, for Elder, why not be crushed by force and also slayed with a sigh?