Did you daydream as a kid? Just stare off into nothing and let your imagination run wild? I did. A lot of my early childhood was spent amazed at what my mind could cook up with if I had a lack of books or toys, and before my soul was captured by music. Laying on my back in the grass, seeing shapes in the clouds or constellations at night, that was pure happiness as a kid. I never really stopped chasing that vibe as an adult, because I still drift off and let my brainwaves go crazy. Expect nowadays my field is my headphones and a turntable, and the clouds my mind is chasing down are inside of my eyelids, and not the sky. If you are looking for the ultimate “drop out, tune in, and turn on” soundtrack for 2020, it is definitely going to be Elder’s new opus, Omens (Armageddon Shop/Stickman Records).
Lots of bands start in one place and move to another artistically, and Elder is the next in a long line: Mastodon, Baroness, Spirit Adrift, Kylesa (RIP), Khemmis, Pallbearer, Royal Thunder, All Them Witches, and a few others. Sure you can have heaviness and technicality, but can you just jam, bro? Elder has been heading down this path for a while with their tripped out progressive Stoner Rock was just getting way, way out there, and refining their songcraft every release. They are now incorporating vocals more and more. Omens dials up the weird and wonderful with the addition of guest keyboardist Fabio Cumo on these tracks (along with keyboardists/guitarists Nick Disalvo and Michael Risberg). There is so much organ, Fender Rhodes, synth, Moog worshiping, mellotron loving keys represented here it’s crazy. I wish there was just a version of this album with just the synths and keys isolated. They are that good!
A concept album charting the rise and fall of a civilization, the chilling thread running through the music, even when sunny sounding, is palpable. You can taste how dire the meaning of the words of Disalvo feel. A warning you can ignore at your own peril. It’s not as far-flung as other bands who try their hand at heady subject matter, because Elder has been here before. They have been perfecting this style for years and so when they wanna take you down a rabbit hole of thought and emotion, you don’t ask why? You just go with it.
Musically it’s a masterpiece of licks, and riffs clashing and coming together track after track. Jack Donovan’s bass playing is thoughtful and never oversteps. A perfect compliment to Georg Edert’s drumming. Sometimes its a stoner vibe, other times trance-like licks give off a post-Rock transcendental mantra, and of course, there are plenty of heavy riffs and quite a few headbanging moments too. There really is no best track here. They are all the best.
I’ve been hoping there would be a band to come along to tickle my late 1960s Pink Floyd funny bone just right. Omens is definitely their Obscured By Clouds, or Meddle. It might be the Crack The Skye for this decade. Chill enough to soothe, but complex and heavy enough to excite too. A certain album of the year contender. Surely, Elder will continue to evolve and change over time and likely won’t make a record exactly like this again. The greats never repeat themselves much anyway.
9 / 10