Review Summary: Hardly a masterpiece, but always a pleasure.
For a genre that aspires to separate itself from the norm, post-rock has developed quite a set of cliches that make the most prominent and derivative examples of the genre instantly recognizable. Here, you will find all of these qualities, both the good and the bad, so while it is never edgy or groundbreaking, it is frequently engaging, and often beautiful.
Structurally, it's simple. It's full of easily digested, four to five minute tracks that often follow a "verse-chorus-verse" type structure with repetitive, rhythmic riffs supplied by guitar, piano, or bass. Melody on the album is a bit hidden, and usually conveyed through the incredibly expressive and often complex drumming by Lloyd Hanney. This provides a tasteful sense of motion to the album that is otherwise concerned with dynamics, soundscapes, and repetition. It is the moments that lack percussion where the album can occasionally drag, such as on the beautiful, yet repetitive "Darkfall," that consists of a single line played for four minutes with an ambient crescendo slowly growing to accompany it. In this way, they have somewhat inverted the natural order of things, which may be the most subversive and interesting thing on the album. This format works well for the band, and it introduces some interesting notions about the nature of sounds and melodic lines. A simple riff may be repeated throughout the song, but will sound completely different played softly by itself at the beginning than pounded at the end to the backdrop of frantic drumming.
The sounds are sparse, expansive, like an isolated look at a Nordic landscape, something that's not quite sad, but at the same time fills you with a sense of wistful longing. At every moment the band tries to create sounds hauntingly beautiful yet somehow wistful, as if a musical reaction to something fleeting and incredibly beautiful that cannot be described. Unfortunately, the delivery occasionally drifts into the realm of kitsch, especially considering that many of these harmonic ideas can be seen in more popular groups like Sigur Ros and Explosions in the Sky, causing moments of the album to feel sappy and artificial. This especially happens near the end of the album, where the ideas do not change much, and the band seems even more concerned with delving into wistful melancholia.
As beautiful as the album often is, it is no masterpiece. The songs are tightly arranged, well performed, and emotionally evocative, but extremely derivative and occasionally sappy. It's a worthy addition to the collection of any post-rock enthusiastic, and good to keep around for the occasional listen on a rainy day.