Progressive stormers Elder let mind wade in infectious warmth on exploratory ‘Innate Passage’

Photo by Maren Michaelis

There has been so much going on the past few years from a pandemic to contentious elections to cultural wars that put those defending the rights of the oppressed vs forces that aim to keep them buried. One of those alone would be enough to fuel a volatile adventure, and while we’re all tied into this shared chaos, we’re all on our own trajectory on whatever path we have chosen.

That’s a similar thought pattern Elder was on when creating their dynamic sixth record “Innate Passage,” another fiery, contemplative slab of progressive power that should unite listeners of myriad extreme sounds be it rock or metal. This band— vocalist/guitarist/keyboard player Nicholas DiSalvo, guitarist/keyboardist Michael Risberg, bassist Jack Donovan, drummer Georg Edert—always has created music that provokes thought and impacts philosophically and psychologically, but their position in history enabled them to expand even further on this record. This album that stretches over five tracks and 54 minutes leans less on heaviness (though it’s still served generously) and aims for more atmosphere and immersion, drawing you deep within its core and stimulating your senses.

“Catastasis” enters like waking from a foggy dream as you work to reorient your senses, then the sounds begin to flood, and the synth gaze explodes. DiSalvo’s smooth but powerful singing is a familiar strain, and the band keeps building the intensity, taking time to set an ambiance but always promising the next burst. The leads fire up as harmonized singing stings, the energy surges, and the massive atmosphere ruptures and ends in a display of cosmic keys. “Endless Return” dawns with keys shimmering and DiSalvo powering over top with his voice, the leads bubbling and rousing around him. Blood rushes as the melodies thicken, the playing pulsating before going cold for a moment, returning with infectious, adventurous playing, the mellotron filling your head with vintage richness. Lush playing calls, the energy becomes a factor again, and proggy thunder strikes and leaves bruising behind.

“Coalescence” trickles in and maintains a fluid pace, exciting and continually awakening new ideas. Keys blanket as the singing joins about four minutes in once we’re fully engulfed, and everything keeps digging harder. The ground rumbles as the warmth from the guitars thaw your limbs, and sun-splashed vibes gives off a burnt, summery edge. The keys pick up as the singing thickens and soars, and the playing dazzles before slowly fading. “Merged In Dreams – Ne Plus Ultra” is the longest track at 14:44, and it comes to life, blending with swirling keys, the intensity galloping and sending up dust. A powerful and progressive breakdown follows, melting ice and breezing through as the guitars pick up and charge, making your heart pump before heading into space lab synth. That eases your mind before the playing jars again, the playing picks up the intensity, and the spirits heads into the cosmos. Closer “The Purpose” remains among the stars before the guitars blaze, and a deliberate pace keeps you engaged and drubbed. DiSalvo’s voice lands hard and powers and emotional chorus, and from there, the pressure gets thicker, and then the playing liquifies. Keys melt and chill the night, your mind wanders along with them into worlds unexplored, and delicate waters flow, taking you gently into the unknown.

Elder’s power is undeniable, and while “Innate Passage” isn’t their heaviest record to date, it’s one of their dreamiest and most immersive. And make no mistake, there is plenty of power behind these tracks, and no one here has gone soft by any means. This is a stream-of-consciousness-style display that fills your head with dreams, takes you on an enthralling journey, and returns you to reality, you wondering how nearly an hour has gone by so quickly.

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