I’m not usually one to fall head over heels for post-rock groups. It’s not that I’ve ever disliked the genre, or the artists that it’s comprised of. No, the music just never clicked with me. It’s unfortunate sometimes, that I feel I can’t relate to the latest Godspeed You! Black Emperor
album that receives a “Classic” rating from more than one (oftentimes repescted and trusted) reviewer. It’s ironic then, that I should find myself so enthralled by Parhelia. After all, what do they do that sets them apart from any other post-rock band? They’re moody, atmospheric, and more talented musically than I could ever dream to be. So what makes them so incredible? Not just to me, but to, I would hope, everyone who hears them? That’s quite the mystery, and you, I, and anyone else can ponder it while this review conveys one simple point: Parhelia are one hell of a band.
Maybe the seeds of my family tree, my Irish heritage, are reminiscent enough for me to feel more connected to this band. After all, Parhelia hail from Dublin. The quartet, formerly known as Revile, are comprised of two guitarists (one who also handles electronic sampling), a bassist, and a drummer. The absence of a vocalist makes for even more emphasis being placed on crafting imagery via music. Parhelia are actually masters at doing just that, and it shows with First Light
EP. While their music isn’t as complex or technical, it’s nevertheless captivating and thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. Interestingly enough, Parhelia are the perfect type of band for easy summertime listening. Generally the type that’s best enjoyed on a late, rainy night. The music on First Light
would also be suitable for a video game; though I can’t quite put my finger on what type.
, as an album, has fascinating range. Opening up with the progressive rock-esque tones of its title track, it’s easy to see how dynamic Parhelia really can be. At 2:33, “First Light,” is the shortest song on the EP, but it makes up for it with quality: echo drenched guitar lines weave a tapestry of pure excellence, only to full-on explode into a complete head-rush semi-heavy riffs with pulsating drum and bass effects. You could almost equate Parhelia to a minimalist version of The Mars Volta
without any vocals. First Light
makes it obvious right from the outset that its “voice” is going to be in the form of a spacey and altogether beautiful guitar. The string-slinging duo of Greg Clarke and Diarmuid Shore compensate well for the lack of vocal performance in Pahrelia’s line-up. The while, keyboards and subtly stirring samples, alongside the band’s own rhythm section, round out First Light
, giving it a wholly complete sound. Except for one minor thing. As excellent a job as the group does, you still can’t help but wonder what Parhelia would sound like with some dreamy lyrics being sang over the hazily satisfying music. It’s a nagging thought, that when coupled with the relatively short length of this EP (which is perhaps unfair to say, as this isn’t intended to be a full length album, but you just won’t want
it to end).
However, Parhelia silence these feelings for the most part with the remaining content on First Light
. “Cloudbreak” is a rather impressive, almost rancorous sounding piece, that defines the emotional palette of Pahrelia’s music. The ability to channel moods from song to song on an album is hardly anything new in the realms of music, but it’s very rarely performed so flawlessly. “Cloudbreak” is, from a virtuosic standpoint, the most technical song on the album. That doesn’t make it the best though, as all the songs are so near in grandeur to each other, it’s hard to prefer one to another. The rest of First Light
, to be honest, reminded me slightly of Burton Wagner
’s In the Realms of the Unreal
. At the very least, it’s similarly beautiful, even if First Light
lacks the connected vibe of its counterpart. Interestingly enough, though, it’s been a topic of interest to attempt to discern whether or not Wagner’s album would have been better performed with lyrics (as it is a concept album), not unlike the wonderings about vocal work on First Light
is sheer brilliance, to be sure. Five songs of pure musical bliss. As I mentioned before, I’m what sets this apart from any other post-rock album I’ve ever listened to. Perhaps it’s the heritage thing, or maybe it’s the almost U2
-like sounds of “Ebb/Flow,” or maybe it’s just that universally appealing. Any which way, I wish Parhelia all the best with their career. What they’re doing with their music is by all means spectacular, and First Light
has blown me away to such a degree that I can say with full confidence (despite this being a post-rock album), that I love Parhelia. And that is as much of a fact as I’ve ever written.