Review Summary: A live EP to showcase Caspian's more contemplative side
Though short, Caspian's career thus far has been one of success. Off the back of their excellent debut EP, You Are the Conductor
, Caspian made a name for themselves as the most promising of a new generation of instrumental rock acts. Not only did 2007's The Four Trees
shatter many's expectations, it also brought along changes to Caspian's sound, with gritty distortion and bombastic rock outbursts proving that this band were more than just a retread. Tertia
again shook up all preconceptions, with its dense clouds of heavy guitars and a creative assortment of atypical instrumentation. Live at Old South Church
is a concise documentation of this career -- a live recording so meticulously performed and mastered such that it may serve as a 'best of' compilation, although perhaps even that would be doing this collection a disservice.
I was not at this gig -- which happened to be a benefit concert in the aid of care for human trafficking-victims -- although I know it was something really special. Upon listening to this recording, it's undeniable that Caspian are among a rare number of bands that sound a lot better in a live setting than on their albums. When I say this, I do not do so with hyperbole or fanboy bias -- the quality of Live at Old South Church
goes far beyond that of Caspian's studio-recorded albums, genuinely. Perhaps helped by the acoustics of such a grand venue, the notes sing and reverberate with absolute beauty; airy ambience abound. Songs which were once enjoyed for their pretty melodies and catchy riffs are now wonderfully enveloped in a deeper sense of atmosphere, previously only actualised by the likes of Jakob. The lead guitar melody in "Concrescence" serves as an example of this -- the strings are struck with real delicacy and raw beauty, lending an emotional edge to the music. The same such melody in the album version (found on Tertia
) had been scrupulously mixed and its volume normalised to perfection, to the extent that much of its potential charm went unexplored.
The musical quality here is not only the best representation of the respective tracks, but the song choices themselves are also superb. Rather than including an eclectic variety of tracks from their back-catalogue, Caspian opted to showcase songs with a common mood and pace. Up-tempo post-metal songs the likes of "La Cerva" would, if included, have been too jarring to the overall tone of the album, a tone that is of reflective atmosphere and emotion. No song displays this better than the final track of the album. Once a beautiful yet somewhat underwhelming song, "Sycamore" is now a grand display of atmosphere and crescendo with power the likes of which Caspian have never managed to achieve before. The song now gradually builds to an overwhelmingly satisfying conclusion, whereby layers and layers of swirling guitars manage to eclipse any of the band's previous attempts at 'epicness'.
For any fan of Caspian, die-hard or otherwise, this live album is essential. For everyone else, this comes highly recommended, especially to those who enjoy atmospheric post-rock. I have always liked Caspian, but I've never loved them until now.