Post-rock isn’t dead, but it might be on life support. The genre’s life cycle thus far has been an interesting one. In the early 2000’s there were maybe 50 releases in the genre to pick from each year. This year, according to Rate Your Music’s database their are 108 release already. Over 200 releases last year. While those number sound small for a genre like rap or metal, for Post-rock that’s a lot of stuff that’s been released the past few years. A genre that used to flourish by having quality over quantity has now gone the other way with a lot of releases leading to a watered down selection of albums. With all of that said, there is still good stuff out there, it’s just not easy to find. It seems like this year the only bands really putting out post-rock worth listening to are some of the more famous acts from the genres recent past. Mono’s newest, Hymn To The Immortal Wind, is about as beautiful as you can get. Maybeshewill’s sophomore album is pretty good, but not of the quality their first release displayed. Overall, there hasn’t been enough good stuff to keep post-rock fans all that interested in the genre.
Thankfully Caspian has given us something to be excited about. Their last disc, The Four Trees, is looked upon as one of the classics in the genre. While I have enjoyed it, I never got into enough to call it one of my favorites. It was a good listen occasionally, but I wasn’t overly impressed. The Four Trees was a little too soft for me, a little too safe.
Post-rock is at it’s height, for me, when the album/songs reach a crescendo that pays off. Often times, artists within the genre meander across 10 minute long songs that never really go anywhere (I’m looking at a lot of your stuff, Mogwai), they never pay off. There are a lot of artists who are guilty of that which is why you see some people say that post-rock is dead. Maybe you have someone who is trying to get in the genre, with little knowledge, and they end up with one of these long, boring releases that turn them off of the genre for good. Now I think I have a current release that we can point people to and say “Look, post-rock is aliving and kicking”.
Caspian’s latest is an interesting progression for them, one I didn’t expect. While there were some intense moments on The Four Trees, they were few and far between. On Tertia they bring the thunder and they bring it pretty often. They haven’t gotten quite as loud as something like Isis or Minsk, but they have gotten hard enough to border on the “post-metal” edge here and there. That’s what really makes this disc for me. It feels like it pays off time and time again with soaring apexes and a “wall of sound” approach that feels like it might engulf you.
The other smart choice that was made on this disc was the length. There are some long songs that come in at 8 or 9 minutes, but most of the album is quick and to the point. None of that pointless wandering that a lot of post-rock albums are guilty of. It’s much easier to get into a 9 minute long song when the tracks leading up to it were between 4 and 6 minutes long and very engaging on top of that. Don’t take my issue with time and make me out to be an impatient person. If an artist can do long songs and keep me interested (Mono, UpCDownC) I’m all for it. The issue is that there are few artists who are really good at that. Seeing Caspian come out with this release and shorten down some of the song lenghts has just made their strengths seem stronger while their weaknesses have been smoothed over.
The album starts with Mie which is a soft intro into what is easily Caspian’s heaviest album to date. From there it’s track after track of post-rock goodness. One of the things that surprised me the most about the first few songs is the strength of the percussion. There are some spots where the drums truly shine and that’s pretty rare in this genre. Often the drums are there just as to keep pace; they rarely come to the forefront. The album’s best track (or at least myfavorite) is Malacoda. The song is heavy throughout but brings something not many post-rock artists use… vocals. Granted it’s not lyrical or verse chorus verse, but it’s a collection of elongated “ah”s and “oh”s that fit perfectly with the heavy guitars. This song is probably the one to point to where there is no fluff, no wasted moments. It’s five minutes of post-rock in it’s highest form. The other standout track is The Raven. Coming in at 7 minutes it’s another track that is perfectly paced and has a wonderful build to the apex that just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The album closes with Sycamore which is the perfect ending. The track puts together everything that is great about Tertia. It puts together the soft with the heavy and Caspian again display their perfect pacing.
This might end up being my post-rock release of the year, but there are still 3 months to go and If These Trees Could Talk had a damn good release earlier in the year. This is an album with 3 amazing tracks that are surrounded by very good tracks. There isn’t a song worth skipping. The album is perfectly paced. Caspian proves to be some of the best at knowing when to go full bore and when to pull back. I think this is their strongest work to date and I hope they continue on the path they have created here, because I think it’s the right one for them. There may not be much that is new to the genre, but it’s perfected a lot of what the genre already offers. If you like post-rock or are interested in getting into it, this is a great release for you.