Thursday, April 23, 2015

Elder - Lore

 When I was a kid, back in the days of vinyl, my desire to go to the record store outpaced my ability to buy anything once I got there. I could only afford maybe one new record a month, even if Record Bar had them on sale. The solution to this problem was the cut-out bin -- a couple of shelves of remaindered records that usually were half price or less compared to the new stuff. I got a ton of music out of the cut-out bin. A lot of it was crap, like Tormato by Yes. I should have known that when I saw Roger Dean hadn't done the cover art, so I'm not complaining. Some of it, though, was life-changing. I bought the first Black Sabbath album out of the cut-out bin. I was probably 12, and had never heard Black Sabbath before, except the song "Paranoid" was on a Don Kirshner compilation album my mom bought me when I was 10. You can only imagine the effect that first song, "Black Sabbath," had on a kid my age. I have never listened to music the same way since.

I still rummage from time to time through the latter-day version of the cut-out bin -- the $5.00 album listing on Amazon. There's some great music to be found there. Some it is famous -- I bought a Marvin Gaye album out of the five buck bin a couple of months ago. Some of it is more obscure, like one of my favorite albums I bought last year, Dead Roots Stirring by Massachusetts trio Elder. That album didn't make my 2014 year end list for one simple reason -- it was released in 2011. It did, however, get played unrelentingly for months. And for months, as well, I kept a lookout, trying to see what had become of this terrific band, finally to learn that they had a new album, titled Lore, set for release in late February. I bought it the day it was released, and after dozens of runs through its hour long, five song cycle, I love it more than ever. It is truly a revelation. 

Many, maybe most, descriptions I've read of Elder online categorize their music as "stoner metal," and that's a shame. The term itself has become reductive -- these days, stoner metal pretty much means not black metal, or it means metal where you can understand the vocals. Not helpful. Lore is refreshingly "classic" metal, where the musicality is the base on which the aggression gets played out, and not the reverse. As if to set that tone for the entire record, the first song, "Compendium," starts out with a mathy guitar figure that reminds me of some of Mastodon's more prog moments. I mentioned that to my brother, who was hearing it for the first time, and he said it reminded him of Meat Puppets, and danged if he's not right. That intro gives way to power chords and then a beautifully aggressive tribal stomp, after which guitarist/singer Nick DeSalvo's soulful vocals are interwoven with a variation on the original guitar theme. At this point we're only two and a half minutes into an 11 minute song, and it doesn't let up from there. Check it out:

Even more than being a "metal" album, which it clearly is, this is a guitar album. Nick DeSalvo is an incredibly gifted young musician who, thankfully, also has a tremendous sense for composition. These songs are long, but they fly by. There are no dead spaces, no noodling, no jamming. Bassist Jack Donovan works through a distortion pedal that more than takes the place of a rhythm guitar, and drummer Matt Couto eschews the blastbeats for an old school, John Bonham influenced approach. There are headbanging and fistpumping parts, of course, but there are parts that are pure art rock. After 3 or 4 listens, the many complex parts begin to cohere, although after two months I still hear new things with each trip through.

All of the songs have been my "favorite" at one point or another, but right now I can't get enough of "Deadweight," where a delicate 45 second intro morphs into a minute and a half of psychedelia, finally exploding into a full-on heavy metal assault. Like everything else on this album, it's brilliant. 

Lore was released in the US by Armageddon Shop, and in Europe by Stickman Records. You can download it for seven lousy simoleons right here at the Elder Bandcamp site

1 comment:

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