Written by: AP on 16/09/2016 06:17:37

Over the course of its 12-year career, Elder has garnered a reputation as something of a cult phenomenon. By navigating in the borderlands between classic, progressive and stoner rock, the Boston, MA -born trio has developed a formula which is not just highly original, but also spreads its appeal across a wide spectrum of subcultures. That Elder’s music should be so popular is far from given; on both of the group’s previous albums, 2008’s “Elder” and 2011’s “Dead Roots Stirring”, and again on this third outing “Lore”, the three musicians actively pursue and then exhaust whatever trajectories their imaginations may take, with the inevitable outcome that Elder’s music tends to take song lengths to the extreme.

On “Lore”, Elder punches in just over an hour in total, divided between five tracks ranging from 9½ to 16 minutes. It is thus unsurprising that they tend to veer off into a myriad of directions, to the extent that each title seems to comprise multiple songs. But part of the reason why so many remain in thrall of Elder is that band’s penchant for tying those individual segments together with anchors — specific riffs, rhythms or melodies that are revisited several times in the space of a song. Opening track “Compendium” offers a good insight into this kind of structuring, wrapping its colourful jams and solos around a revenant, swirling signature melody arranged over a heavy, insistent groove by the rhythm musicians, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto. The following “Legend” is less urgent and more spacey, resembling in certain parts the mysterious prog-psychedelia of Mastodon on their 2009 opus “Crack the Skye” and, when it gallops through a melancholy passage, Baroness on 2012’s ”Yellow & Green” and 2015’s ”Purple” albums. The first solo — heavily inspired by classic rock — on the other hand, is like a page out of Led Zeppelin’s playbook, and as such, the song is reflective of the rewarding variety that Elder offers.

Indeed, despite the towering compositions, one’s patience is never tested because each turn and transition exposes a new facet of the music. The title track, for instance, is similar to “Legend” in terms of the underlying inspiration throughout its 16 minutes of progressive riff-o-rama, but is gradually, subtly wound into a transcendental instrumental journey alternating between highbrow melodic notes and heavy, gorging powerchord chops — which you might typically attribute to the post-rock genre. Immersive and compelling, “Lore” is a song to lose yourself in, relying almost exclusively on the emotive power of Elder’s instrumentals to woo the listener and make those 16 minutes feel like half the time. In general, vocals assume a secondary role in Elder’s music, which is to the group’s benefit given that guitarist Nick DiSalvo is not exactly a tenor. His singing, a kind of halfway meeting of the 70’s rock style and Troy Sanders’ (Mastodon) wacky croon, is quite personal in the sense that finding accurate comparisons for it is difficult. But at the same time, it is neither powerful nor striking enough to rank among Elder’s core competences. Even at their most accessible (relatively speaking, of course) and characteristically stoner in “Deadweight”, the ‘shortest’ piece “Lore” has to offer, it is the heavy grooves laced with spaced out, wah-wah-pedalled solo work that does the talking — not DiSalvo’s singing, more foregrounded though it may be.

When all is said and done and the magnificent “Spirit at Aphelion” has delivered a deserving conclusion to the record though, it remains clear that Elder have few, if any contemporary equals, which would explain the composition of their fanbase from such a broad variety of backgrounds within rock and metal. Yet even so, the enormous scope and often tantalising complexity of the band’s ideas is likely to put off prospective listeners with little or no prior disposition for either progressive or stoner rock, preferably both. But then, Elder never proposed to write music for those looking for quick fixes or easy listening. No, “Lore” is written with the connoisseur in mind, and deserves to be celebrated as such.


Download: Legend, Deadweight, Spirit at Aphelion
For the fans of: Baroness, Mastodon
Listen: Facebook

Release date 27.02.2015
Stickman Records

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