In a word: epic. That’s how I would describe the latest record from Massachusetts natives Elder – a stoner/prog metal opus of gigantic proportions. This album is thick and sludgy like the best stoner metal, and yet is shot through with a technical edge that gives these six tracks some real bite.
There is a wonderful dynamic maintained at all times between heaviness and weightlessness: the distorted lead guitars and bass provide the former, but there are plenty of cleanly plucked overdubs which supply the ‘floating’ from the album’s title. This dynamism is what makes Reflections of a Floating World really stand out: the band conjures some truly magical moments of contrast, where quiet introspective bridges erupt into white-hot, volcanic guitar riffs.
Opener ‘Sanctuary’ is an album highlight right out of the gates. It opens with a fantastic driving groove that develops in the opening minutes, adding some crashing cymbals before swirling out into a psychedelic breakdown. This then builds into a shredding guitar solo before the pace slows to a doomy stomp, at which point a dreamy interlude portends the huge extended climax of the song. Here, a colossal endorphin rush of reverbed guitars and bass provide the backdrop for Nick Disalvo’s growling vocals: ‘Sanc-tuaraayyyyyyyyy…’
These first eleven minutes effectively give you everything that makes the record so great in microcosm. Incredibly sharp writing, dynamic and structurally imaginative songs, all wrapped in a bow with some brilliant production work: gritty but clean, and always booming at a huge volume.
Elder are a band that know how to write amazing stoner metal riffs, but they don’t settle for just that, and have put together the tightest and most ambitious metal record I heard all year with Reflections of a Floating World. It truly does feel not just like an album but a place: a windswept corner of some alien rock, as crushingly inhospitable as it is remotely beautiful.