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Elder - Innate Passage review

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Band: Elder
Album: Innate Passage
Release date: November 2022

01. Catastasis
02. Endless Return
03. Coalescence
04. Merged In Dreams - Ne Plus Ultra
05. The Purpose

Omens was an album about which I had genuine reservations over certain features, and yet I ended up calling it my 2020 Album Of The Year; that is the kind of sheer talent we are dealing with in Elder, and Innate Passage further exemplifies this.

Elder and its members have been consistently active since the arrival of Mike Risberg and Georg Edert. Following 2019’s The Gold & Silver Sessions and the 2020 release of Omens, 2021 featured two adjacent projects: a collaboration with Kadavar (resulting in Eldovar) and Nick DiSalvo’s solo venture Delving’s excellent debut release Hirschbrunnen. Come the closing stages of 2022 and the focus has switched back to Elder’s primary endeavours, this time in the form of full-length album number 6, Innate Passage. Elder haven’t always been so prolific, as all 5 records already mentioned in this paragraph were released within a shorter time window than the gap between Dead Roots Stirring and Lore, and the fact that the Atlantic has separated the members of the band during this window makes their activity even more impressive. The amount of time that the members must have spent working on music together during this window in order to produce these albums really shines through in how clear their musical affinity is on Innate Passage.

My biggest issue with Omens, which I alluded to in the intro to this review, was focused on DiSalvo’s vocals; while never blessed with the voice of an angel, the hazy semi-shouting he used on the early records complemented the music, but when the singing cleaned up on Omens, some problems emerged, which I previously struggled to place upon his general tone or the specific performance. Having heard Innate Passage, I feel more inclined to attribute it to the latter, as there is a marked improvement this time around; there’s a relatively prolonged sung passage midway through “Merged In Dreams - Ne Plus Ultra” that involves covering a range of notes, and with how smoothly this sequence flows, it feels like DiSalvo has gained a more confident grasp on pitch. I’d still say that the vocals are probably the least stellar piece of the Elder puzzle on Innate Passage, but they no longer stand out as a glaring weakness.

With this shackle released, the potential is there for Innate Passage to become a career highlight for them; having heard it several times now, I’m not confident making a firm decision either way on whether it is, but the fact that I’m mulling it over is a positive sign for this new album. Musically, it continues the exploration of more retro prog rock and psychedelic rock sounds that has taken a central position in Elder’s style since The Gold & Silver Sessions, but at the same time it leans significantly closer to the heavier prog-stoner nature of Reflections Of A Floating World and Lore than Omens did.

This culminates in some great heavy moments, including the rambunctious drive that dominates the first two-thirds of “Merged In Dreams - Ne Plus Ultra”, the crunching final climax of this same track, the triumphant fuzzy groove that is used repeatedly in “The Purpose”, and the several punchy riffs scattered through “Eternal Return”. At the same time, the glorious mellow instrumental jamming that has made recent Elder records so delectable is here in abundance, with every track featuring at least one sumptuous extended jam passage. Perhaps my pick of the bunch is the delicate instrumentation that gives the opening half of “Coalescence” a similar vibe to Omens’ magnificent centrepiece “Halcyon”.

The question of where to place this album within the Elder discography as a whole does not depend on its flaws, as there are very few moments that can be considered weak points on Innate Passage. It comes down more to whether its peaks reach the same heights as its predecessors, and on that front I’m less sure. Much like Omens, the two standout songs here for me are placed third and fourth on the tracklist; “Coalescence”, as already mentioned, is a lush display of tranquillity that gracefully progresses into a louder, but no less pleasing, jam, while “Merged In Dreams - Ne Plus Ultra” makes excellent use of its far longer runtime (5 minutes more than any other song on the record) to display the joys of Elder as a heavy band, whether fast and rollicking or slow and majestic. Yet even with these songs, I’m yet to find a passage on the record that blows me away in the manner that either “Halcyon” or “Embers” managed on Omens, nor the otherworldly second half of Lore’s title track. It’s worth recognizing that time and revisits absolutely have the potential to reveal something of a similar nature in Innate Passage, but as of the time of writing, I consider this new record to be a consistently great album without those special moments to move it into an echelon above its peers.

Despite this, Elder are an absolutely top-tier band and, although I had some slight trepidation in the build-up to its release due to both my aforementioned concerns over the vocals and my indifference towards Eldovar, Innate Passage makes a mockery of those worries by once again confirming the undisputed excellence of this group. As far as bands that release jam-like music are concerned, Elder really are unrivalled when it comes to making those instrumental voyages memorable and exquisite, and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of that changing soon, based on this evidence.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 28.11.2022 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 1   Visited by: 86 users
29.11.2022 - 13:40
Rating: 9

First I’ll say you are probably my favorite reviewer here, because your fandom is evident and you are wonderful at expressing your feelings about a band/album. I’m a huge Elder fan, and when I read this review I feel like it is written by someone that shares my passion.

As for the album itself, I agree almost point for point. There isn’t a negative I can think of. Is this record as good as their best? That’s hard to say for now. I’ll have to see what emerges as I give it a few listens. But the songwriting/performance is top notch as always, and the vocals are improved. This is one of the best of the year in a great year for stoner metal (Messa and Psychonaut also killing it.)

I’m not sure how it’ll be received at MS - this is definitely not Elder’s heaviest release. But as a big fan of psychedelic music heavy or no, this band is consistently brilliant at generating the right atmosphere and meditative feel to draw me in. With Elder, it’s all about the “voyage,” and Innate Passage welcomes the listener along for the journey.

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