Review Summary: Revealing another masterpiece...
I think nobody expected Elder to evolve so much during the past decade, at least not until Lore
was released. The self-titled was promising, but the jumps in quality and musical prowess from one album to another are simply admirable. Dead Roots Stirring
was them moving from Sleep territory to a more stoner/psychedelic effort. Then, four years later, Lore
brought in a new perspective. Delving into progressive rock while keeping the heaviness of its predecessors, the LP blew everyone’s minds how well it was crafted. The expectations went through the roof and I was worried Reflections of a Floating World
would be under cooked, especially since it came out just over two years later (one of which was abundant in tour dates). Nevertheless, the band did it again and presented us what’s arguably their best work so far.
Musically, it follows the blueprints utilized on the previous two records. Even so, they went back and worked on improving their delivery. As a result, the band left some room to breathe throughout the album (Lore
had too much going on at various points). ‘Sonntag’ is a perfect example as it strays from the main tracks, building on a krautrock-inspired motorik beat, complete with percussion, haunting synths and theremin. Guitar leads pop up here and there, but the focus is on a mesmerizing groove that acts like a break from the overall madness and maybe baby steps into a different sphere for the next album.
Moving on with the honing, the guitars don’t drown the bass on the heavy parts anymore, plus the snare has a better rounded tone. Moreover, Nick fine-tuned his vocals, giving his strongest performance so far. The opening epic, ‘Sanctuary’ starts with a groovy melody which goes strong for a couple of minutes, before leaving room for soaring guitar solos and vocals. It’s impressive how multiple small tweaks are continuously added and the drumming is splendid. Halfway, they get into this glorious riff that smoothly paves the way for a subdued segment comprised of effects-soaked picked chords. These alternate for a while with subtle changes, then proceeding to a hard hitting coda. The next mammoth track, ‘The Falling Veil’ starts slow, building tension in order to effectively let loose a swerving riff accompanied by powerful vocals. The guitars complement each other really well, wandering in myriad directions. On top of this, on the second half, keyboards enter to furthermore enhance this intricate beauty. Again, the final minute is simply crushing. Playing as a four-piece now (Mike Risberg from Gold & Silver joined as second axe man) really helps and I am sure live it’s going to be a whole new adventure.
Like a gift that keeps on giving, the quality of the tracks is stunning all the way. For me, ‘Blind’ is the best moment overall, along with ‘Staving off the Truth’, as it brings everything they have to offer into a 13-minute odyssey (much like ‘Lore’ did). The scorching main riff drives us for a minute or so, being interrupted by a piano and vocal interlude, before bursting again with added keyboard touches. The mid-section nicely intertwines them with the other instruments, each member sharing the spotlight. After another verse, the song brings forth a string of riffs, one cooler and dirtier than the other. This onslaught is stopped by a jam session where the bass and drum interplay takes the spotlight whereas the others play airy chords. Again, the last minute is simply gorgeous. ‘Staving off the Truth’ goes through all the aforementioned motions, but every part is essential to the entire piece. I love the dreamy beginning and the transition to the fiery riff is excellent. I am curious if they recorded multiple layers of guitars, because at times it feels like an entire sonic wall is coming right at you. It’s nice how they focused on expanding the intro midway, with the bass offering some great lines. The sound scapes grow in intensity in the background, unleashing another round of potent riffage. After multiple listens, I am not tired of hearing them.
In the end, one has to listen to Reflections of a Floating World
two or three times to truly grasp its beauty. It’s clear that Elder worked hard on consolidating their strengths in order to bring an even better album than Lore
was. They fine-tuned the sound, production, vocals and brought a truckload of strong riffs & melodies. I understand it might be too much of the same formula for some, however, everything flows so natural from start to end, you just enjoy it without thinking about it. This is hands down the best album any prog-influenced stoner/psychedelic act released this year and definitely a contender for the album of the year.