Review Summary: Reflect is messy, short, and brooding- and the best emotional hardcore album of 2009
I wish I could tell you more about this band. I’m sitting here, trying to dredge up some background information that would explain the sound Elder has so neatly crafted on Reflect
, but googling “Elder Reflect” currently only brings up blogs, sputnikmusic’s rating page, and a mediafire link. I suppose the ambiguity works for this band because it makes Reflect
like a big secret waiting to be discovered by you kids with your hoodies and your Some Blood
vinyls, because- and I’ll make this statement with full confidence- Reflect
is the emotional hardcore album of 2009.
It doesn’t achieve this status through sheen or clarity; Reflect
doesn’t pull its influences from the shimmering post rock-tinged skramz of Envy or Sed Non Satiata, but rather the shoegazing distorted take of Mesa Verde. The album hides frustration and doubt under a haze of drone and reverb, which makes Reflect
a surprisingly chill affair. Quotes from those aforementioned blogs include lines like “the chillest band one could consider ‘Screamo’ i have ever encountered.”
This isn’t really a stretch. Elder’s sound is completely engulfing, like a shoegaze take on emo. This isn’t to say Reflect
lacks passion- passion is still there, it’s just buried underneath the fury developed by the wave of the instruments. It keeps Reflect
shrouded; every time it feels like we can latch on to something clear and straightforward, Elder negates it by either maximizing the chaos or removing the tension completely. The closest insight Reflect
offers as to who Elder actually are
is on “Ninos,” where one can barely make out screams of ”This world’s not big enough. Where’s your peace? Where’s your prosperity?”
under a climactic swell of guitars that render the cries of secondary importance to the atmosphere.
Elder does this pretty consistently throughout Reflect
; with the primal screams dropped low in the mix and doubled or tripled, they turn into hazy incoherent shouts that provide the support for the air of sadness purveying throughout even Elder’s most intense passages. While this leads the album to leave impressions rather than memories, it does keep Reflect
remarkably focused. The album sounds absolutely unified, with each of its six tracks vital to its direction. Short fiery bursts like “Evasion” and “Vultures” lack the depth of the album’s epics, but more than compensate by sounding completely unleashed out of hell. They shout and scream with intensity that remembers pg.99 and Gospel, but they are quickly hushed by Elder’s deft skill at temperance. There’s definitely a furious, chaotic album in Reflect
, but Elder want no part of it. Instead they tease with violence only to kill it with brooding ostinato endings or droning passages. Both “Friendly Fire” and “Remember These Days,” the album’s opuses, start off as furious punk anthems that hint a disgusted rage before ultimately submitting to calm, triumphant riffs that relax the tension. It makes Reflect
leave an impression of despair, as if even the most fervent cry is lost in the constant drone of normalcy.
It helps that Reflect
is disgustingly quick. At a brief six tracks, Reflect
doesn’t blow up its importance or stretch beyond what’s absolutely required of it, but make no mistake: it is the perfect length. Should the album have been any longer, it would probably have started to feel drawn out, any shorter and it would feel slight. Reflect
is a succinct work of emotional hardcore that arrives, says its peace and leaves a bewildered but whole hearted “Fuck
Yeah” in its wake. Even if Elder aren’t as polished as some of their contemporaries whom they so obviously wish to be associated with (check out the As the Roots Undo
homage in “Remember These Days”), Reflect
is a stellar little gem from another solid American skramz band. They should enjoy the ambiguity they have now; should they flesh out and ever put out a record of the same quality as Reflect
with enough material to garner mass attention, Elder could well reach that upper echelon of skramz dominated right now by Europeans and bookworm Georgians. Till then, they will be our little secret.