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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Elder

Elder

Review by Gary Hill

What an exceptional release this is! First off, let’s just talk about the packaging. It’s got a cool cover and the sleeve is a gatefold done up like a mini LP sleeve – on the heavy cardboard stock. That’s a great nod back to the era when vinyl ruled the music world.

So, what about the music? If you enjoy stoner rock of bands like Sleep this should seem fairly familiar. They have more of a groove to their sound, though, seeming more like Clutch at times. They are not content to sit within the little stoner rock box, though, so you’ll find them stretching beyond those boundaries here and there. However you categorize and compare it, though, this is a killer metal disc that’s got a lot of retro Sabbath like sound to it. It might be the best album I’ve ever heard in the stoner rock category.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
White Walls
Bass brings this in and then feedback joins. From there they launch out into a super heavy jam. This is like old school Black Sabbath, but heavier. When it drops down to the stripped down musical journey it seems even more like Sab. The vocals are along the lines of Sleep and other bands of that ilk. They carry on by moving back out the more filled out arrangement. In a bit of a change from the stoner rock sound they take us into a rather positive sounding jam for a while later. This is just such a cool jam. At a little less than seven minutes in length this is the shortest track on show here.
Hexe
They bring this one in heavy. That’s not a big surprise. This feels more along the lines of Clutch to me. This one breaks out of the stoner rock mold here and there. At times it’s for some lighter (still metal but not so oppressive) bit and other points it’s with some noisy modern sounding music. There’s some especially tasty guitar soloing here. The fast paced jams later are killers, too. In an interesting change up we also get an acoustic guitar solo. This is set over the top of more hard edged jamming at first and then the more rock instruments drop away leaving just the percussion and acoustic guitar. It’s not something you hear very often in this type of music. 
Riddle of Steel Pt. 1
On any level this is the longest track on the disc. It’s ten minutes if taken by itself, but if you consider the two parts as one epic you are looking at over eighteen minutes. The opening riff enters and they build it up fairly gradually from there until they explode out into a full on plodding journey. They move through this without any real surprises, just some killer stoner metal. Around the five and a half minute mark, though, they pull this out into a cool space rock bit – dropped way down. It doesn’t hold it long, though. Instead they fire out into another great jam, this one feeling quite a bit like Clutch. We get a few changes and alterations after they power it back out. 
Ghost Head
This might be my favorite cut on the set. While it’s not a serious rethink from the rest of the material, the riff that drives it is just so tasty. The whole thing has more of a groove texture that works exceptionally well. I’m reminded of Blue Cheer quite a bit on this thing. They change it out here and there to keep it from getting redundant, but when it’s this good, it really doesn’t matter. The guitar solo section on this simply scorches. It should be noted (for those with kids or an extreme aversion to profanity – or perhaps both) that there is a massive “f bomb” in the midst of this number.
Riddle of Steel Pt. 2
This is a screaming hot slab of stoner metal. They keep reimagining this and working from one killer segment to another. If there’s a song I like more than “Ghost Head” (and I’m not sure) this would be it. There are some amazing sections here. It’s like jam rock meets Sabbath metal at times.The cool segment around the six minute mark is classic. This is a great way to end the album in style - and what a stylish album it is.
 
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