Elder – Reflections of a Floating World
Label: Armageddon Shop/Stickman Records
Release Date: June 2, 2017
In my short time reviewing albums for Metalholic, it has become clear to me that my personal tastes generally lie well outside those of the audience this site generally caters to. That’s just fine with me. I’ve always relished the opportunity to introduce people to music they might otherwise never stumble upon themselves, particularly because I myself owe the ever-expanding nature of my musical preferences to scattered resources across the internet, not to mention a few close friends who are keen to toss new things my way. The further along the trajectory of discovery you allow yourself to move, the more the pieces and parts blend together to the point that it becomes difficult to identify the exact characteristics which define your individual tastes. It’s a wonderful place to be.
If the assumption I posited above is indeed true, this will likely mark the first time that many of you have heard of a Massachusetts-based band called Elder. Comprised of guitarist and vocalist Nicholas DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, and drummer Matt Couto, Elder unveiled their stoner/doom-tinged self-titled debut in 2008 followed three years later by the release of the seminal Dead Roots Stirring, both on Idaho’s own MeteorCity Records. Both albums, the latter in particular, made it immediately clear that Elder had ambitions well beyond their Sabbath-worshiping peers. Almost from the get-go, Elder displayed a penchant for writing epic songs—regularly extending beyond the 10 minute mark—imbued with a depth and focus that seemed otherworldly considering they were written by guys who were in their late teens or early 20’s.
Dead Roots Stirring was followed by a few minor releases, including a live album recorded at the 2013 iteration of the legendary Roadburn Festival, and a fantastic EP entitled Spires Burn/Release. By this point in their career, Elder had a well-established following in the stoner rock community thanks in large part to their consistent touring in Europe, where the type of music they purvey enjoys a more established following. If Dead Roots Stirring was a revelation, then the release of Elder’s much-anticipated 3rd album, Lore, was nothing short of career defining. Released late in the winter of 2015, Lore is a rare example of an album that is quite literally perfect in every sense of the word. From the album’s one-word-is-enough title, to the evocative artwork courtesy of long-time collaborator Adrian Dexter, to the songs themselves—Lore is the proverbial complete package. In keeping with subsequent releases, Lore saw the band expand their sound in significant ways, most notably through the exploration of prog and psychedelia. To the surprise of no one who heard it, the album landed on several year-end “best-of” lists and pushed the band further into the collective consciousness of a burgeoning underground scene they all-of-a-sudden found themselves the torchbearers of.
At this point, trying to describe Elder’s sound is an almost impossible task. For starters, they don’t sound like what you’d expect from a traditional 3-piece, like, say, High on Fire. Their sound has roots in stoner and doom metal, to be sure, but they are much more than that thanks to the incredibly colorful guitar playing of guitarist and vocalist Nick DiSalvo. I always hate singling band members out (especially since it’s almost always the guitarist/singer who gets the glory), but there is little denying that DiSalvo’s guitar skills are the primary driving force behind the band’s sound given his ability to stack emotive and imaginative leads atop the band’s thundering groove. Beyond that, I can’t do their sound justice with mere words because every other means I can think of in trying to describe what they sound like seems like a contradiction in terms. They’re heavy, but they aren’t a “metal” band. Their compositions are long, lush, and complex—yet somehow simple and never indulgent. They sound similar to a hundred other bands, but they sound like nobody else. They’re comprised of 3 young men who call themselves Elder, for crying out loud. None of it makes any sense!
As I alluded to at the start, I’m writing this under the assumption that most people who regularly read Metalholic haven’t discovered Elder yet. All I really need to say about their latest release, Reflections of a Floating World, is that it is a fantastic album full of all of the impossible-to-describe (for me at least) elements that make Elder one of the most unique and intriguing rocks bands in the world right now. Sonically, they’ve made a smaller leap than they did between previous releases, but there is no doubt they’ve fleshed out their sound into what feels like the definitive version of themselves—partly due to the contributions of guest guitarist Michael Risberg who will also join the band on tour. I have no idea where they go from here. They’ve pushed boundaries I didn’t even know existed.
Listen to Elder.
I’ve nothing more to say.