By Lord Randall

Last year’s “Gold & Silver Sessions” EP is my favorite release of ELDER thus far, largely due to the lack of vocals, which in previous releases had marred my enjoyment, not because they were “bad” per se – simply “there”, and not fitting the music underneath.” Omens” is the (now) quartet’s fifth full-length, though, so if they don’t know who they are by now, maybe the time has come to write them off. 

The title track draws in from the beginning, roughly a half-minute of slow build, continuing once the introductory riff joins in, a bit Floydian (Barrett era) in execution. ELDER has never been one of those bands in a hurry to get anywhere, the benefit being that it recognizes this, and ensures that the time spent along the way doesn’t leave the listener with the feeling of it being wasted. Still cringing at the vocals, but the band’s musically on point, with well-placed leads around 2/3 of the way through, as well as a neat little BLUE OYSTER CULT by way of KANSAS (think ‘Carry On Wayward Son’) break [7:58-8:25]. It’s at this time we must acknowledge the addition of guitarist/keyboardist Mike Risberg, who adds another layer to ELDER, and melds perfectly with the other members. 

‘In Procession’ stars off with a nice, languid groove, DiSalvo’s indie/post-hardcore/emo vocals marring what would otherwise be a solid tune. Now, before you start whining that I just want vocals that sound “harder” or more gruff, that’s not it at all. I just don’t want them to sound like this when wed to this type of music. Proof is found in that, at the midpoint of the album – and midway through the nearly 13 minutes of ‘Halcyon’, DiSalvo’s vocals arrive, fitting seamlessly, elements of noise rock, shoegaze and Britpop (think early JESUS & MARY CHAIN, STARFLYER 59) rising to the fore. The interplay of guitars and keys here is ideal, layer building on layer, confirming that – when ELDER is on, it’s on, the final 1/3 of the song containing the best musical moments ELDER has put to tape. If not, it’s certainly right up there. 

‘Embers’ paints with shades of late ‘80s/early ‘90s alternative, proving how diverse the band can be without sacrificing its identity in the process, the vocals yet again belonging. 

“Omens” may be the most musically diverse album of ELDER’s career thus far. It’s music for the open road, yet not to immersive that it can’t also make for solid and engaging background music. Now that I think of it, maybe what I’d perceived as a failure might not lie in the vocals at all, but in the writing of music to showcase this previously shrug-worthy element of ELDER’s sound. I’d love to see the band play more to its strengths in this way going forward, and I don’t know about you, but I’d give up doom/stoner ELDER in a heartbeat for what it’s hopefully becoming.