What are you supposed to do when you’ve got a love of Rush, progressive metal, Tool and all things prog? That’s right, you head off and make one of the most immersive and complete prog rock escapades that you are likely to hear this year. The musical talent in question here is Vancouver’s Omer Cordell, who, like many of his Canadian brethren, spent his formative years aping Neil Peart on his own drum kit, doubtless dreaming of emulating his teenage hero. A formative career in photography has now morphed into bringing his passion to life; the results, the ambitious ‘The Primitive Mountain’ (Independent/Bandcamp) are never less than interesting and, occasionally, absolutely terrific.
As can often be the case with prog, new records can be worn down by the sum total of their influences. Given prog fans ability to spot a minor chord change on one record and know that it’s previously appeared on a King Crimson b-side from 1969, it’s often a minor miracle that new records bring additional nuance and verve to the overloaded musical table. Trailight‘s debut The Primitive Mountain does that. And how.
Cordell has surrounded himself with some seriously talented musicians and whilst the phrase, ‘supergroup’ isn’t something that should be uttered in polite or serious company, there is some significant CV quality from the likes of former Annihilator vocalist Dave Padden and drummer Ryan Van Poederooyen who spends a lot of time with that other Vancouver based polymath, a certain Devin Townsend. This is the sort of group where one’s instinct would suggest that these guys know exactly what they are doing. Your instinct would be right.
There is a joy and a happiness to the songs on The Primitive Mountain that is infectious. From the Tool like strains of opening track ‘Open Doors’, down through the prog metal powerhouses of ‘We Are The Ocean’ and ‘Frail Human Form’, this is a record that revels in its inventiveness, positively lies back on its metaphoric chaise lounge, offering us new idea after new idea like an over enthusiastic confetti thrower at a wedding. The title track acts as a veritable tent pole for the whole album: reflective and ambitious, both of the personal life described therein and the musical soundtrack that has been created. Three minutes of introspection give way to second half that is determined, driven and resilient.
‘Passer By’s melody and the harmony of ‘A Thousand Years’ are both songs of delicate loveliness whilst the acoustic strains of ‘Navarino’ will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing proudly on end. Closing track ‘Beyond the Rubicon’ is an absolute highlight, a brilliant distillation of the album’s themes and tenor, a soundtrack with a third party narrator that ruminates on man’s plundering of his environment which is by turns reflective, philosophical and plaintive.
There is a hoary old cliche of records being a bit of a “grower” which is often shorthand for a writer not paying enough attention to the record in the first place or changing their mind about a record’s quality because their mates now love it. Let’s be clear about this: The Primitive Mountain delivers immediately and then delivers even more upon repeated listens because it’s a record made with care and consideration. It’s a record made with love, for goodness sake. Sometimes you need to scratch that itch.