Fields Of Elysium
In Ancient Contemplation


4.0
excellent

Review

by Mitchell D. W. CONTRIBUTOR (46 Reviews)
July 29th, 2019 | 46 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Actually, it IS your grandpa's tech-death album.

In a genre once renowned for its inventiveness and forward-thinking philosophy, it feels ironic that a trip to the past is what provides a breath of fresh air in a struggling scene. The implication is not that technical death metal is devoid of talented players, as the openness of modern music has opened the gate for all kinds of suppliers, but that their primary concerns have fallen out of line with the category’s mission statement: to progress, shooting for the stars, using instruments as conduits for a science fiction odyssey. Never was the intent of the field to be relegated to nothing but soulless demonstrations of virtuosity; the heightened musicianship was a potential added bonus. Listening to an album like In Ancient Contemplation is an experience not as ostentatious as a blockbuster like Avatar, which is mechanically glamorous by outward appearances, though it lacks the enduring compositional brilliance that the former possesses. Rather, uncovering the latest full length from Fields of Elysium is similar to retrieving one’s old copy of A New Hope and watching it for the first time in years. It is not necessarily original—the plot points, character arcs, and iconic visuals are all well entrenched in memory—yet it’s difficult to dismiss that lingering feeling of awe that persists. Those tried-and-true effects, regardless of publication date, are refreshing in their own manner.

Perhaps what’s most shocking about the success of In Ancient Contemplation is the fact that, for a technical death metal record, it is remarkably straightforward in delivery. Fields of Elysium simply craft the foundation of their songs by doing the basics and doing them exceptionally. In order to truly evoke an atmosphere of a future reality or some other kind of cosmic charade, the band shifts focus from explosive displays and moreso towards restrained, melodic delivery, an emphasis further placed upon dynamic motions instead of incredible solos. Bending time signatures and orchestrating addicting rhythms is where the collective find themselves most comfortable—an endeavor that undoubtedly requires tight coordination amongst contributing members. This is reflected by an even mixture that places drums, guitars, and bass—an instrument that has nearly become obnoxious in its increasingly loud presence—on a level plane, neither factor ever outshining the other but each excelling at their jobs. Polished leads soar in glittering tones reminiscent of Nocturnus, their high notes especially luminous during moments of respite. The heaviness department is left to the management of the percussion kit, whose thunderous low end compliments the darker tone of the bass; adding in the rhythm guitar, such as during one of the disc’s various tempo fluctuations, produces an even heftier result.

Arpeggio leads and tremolo-picking riffs are the dominating thrust of the group’s light speed engine. While the absence of complex plucking and intricate sweeps are noted, Fields of Elysium compensate by constructing passages that are smoothly integrated, each portion memorable due to an evocative melody or equally potent progressive inclusion. Album centerpiece “Alligator Mountain” summarizes the core identity of the band most accurately; following an introduction colored by dueling counters with the guitars and an ominous bass, the near-8-minute opus rushes forward confidently into a series of time-bending incidences, alternating easily between crushing drum pounds and occasions of cymbal-tapping, atmospheric peace. Outside of reoccurring motifs within the instrumental sections, the expansive entry takes a further step by forming an outstanding refrain punctuated by a rare usage of traditional singing—scaled-back and distant, the almost choir-esque quality complimenting supporting acoustic elements. The ability of the Santa Fe crew to change directions on command is exhibited to an even greater extent on “Frogs in the Distance After the Rain” and its liberal implementation of different genres. Ambient chords are struck, their soulful voice lingering above a leading percussion part that promptly collapses into delightful pandemonium, crunching guitars accenting the syncopated rhythm that dictates the proceedings. The chaotic section culminates in a devastating breakdown as if a deathcore album suddenly intercepted the CD’s duration. It is brutal in its unexpected arrival and testifies to how Fields of Elysium can present intrigue without relying on base technical skill.

Individual instances allow album entries to shine per their own merit, simultaneously benefitting from a seamless flow that generally maintains a strong sense of momentum. Numbers akin to the concluding “Abstaining the Hive Mind” elicit feelings of absolute satisfaction; amidst captivating drum fills, imposing guitar riffs and tempo twisting forays, there is an incredibly solid structure of engaging compositions. Fields of Elysium have the capabilities to surprise their audience—definite highlight “The Whip or the Carrot” designs a jazzy interlude in the middle of its existence, a saxophone solo to boot—and to essentially preserve a tall standard worthy of a listener’s attention. What deters the final effort from reaching loftier praise is its unfortunate tendency to meander during quieter portions. Intermission periods, the three instrumental-only tracks being the guiltiest offenders, linger far longer past their lifespan, risking an entire derailing of the usually consistent pace. And as entertaining as that brief sax interruption is, the lovable brass device seems to be metal’s new gimmick to replace the violin. Having any relatively short release—In Ancient Contemplation rests nicely at only 43 minutes—replete with filler artificially elongates the album’s duration to its detriment. Despite that, Fields of Elysium undeniably pulled off an excellent technical death metal adventure. Originality does not lay down deep roots here, but the brilliance of In Ancient Contemplation is precisely due to its adherence to fundamentals, and doing those fundamentals justice. In an extra dose of irony, in their goal to shoot for the stars, these gentlemen concoct a sci-fi epic not by wandering aimlessly along multi-stringed fretboards, but keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground.



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user ratings (15)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Tech-death man speaketh. This wasn't very inventive, granted, but it was so damn fun and incredibly solid. It was nice to hear something that did its best to nail what the genre once stood for and to do it in this excellent of a fashion.



Stream on bandcamp: https://fieldsofelysium-prog.bandcamp.com/album/in-ancient-contemplation



Album is also available on Spotify.



Comments, criticism, comments, criticism, criticism and comments all welcome.

Digging: The Offering - Home

TheSpirit
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2019


25754 Comments


Nice review! Once you got into the body of it, I really enjoyed the read. The intro seemed a bit by-the-books for a tech death review, but you tweaked it enough for it still to be a smooth, enjoyable read.



Digging: Carved Cross - Sapped of Strength, Left to Wither and Fade Away

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Appreciate it, thanks! I'm certainly weary of tech-death review intros becoming cliche rapidly, something I'll be sure to keep in mind going forward.

MotokoKusanagi
July 29th 2019


1998 Comments


will def check this tonight, good review

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for stopping by! Make sure to report back, curious on what everyone's takes will be

DungeonBoy
July 29th 2019


6399 Comments


lol that album cover

Digging: Guild Of Lore - Storm Haven

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Gator mountain is gonna get chu

DungeonBoy
July 29th 2019


6399 Comments


I love it, but it's horrible

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You can get posters and full-body-graphic t-shirts so you can truly become one with the scaly boys

DungeonBoy
July 29th 2019


6399 Comments


I'm going straight for a back piece.

Edit: lol, Dude holy smokes you weren't kidding: https://f4.bcbits.com/img/0016434705_10.jpg

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hey, it's quality merchandising!

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2019


9907 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Let's see how this pans out.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm really finding that 2 hard to believe my guy, but I'll respect it.

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2019


9907 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I'll see if I can add a little more detail to the discussion we had yesterday on this guy.



It's true, I did see this album a lot more positively on a first listen, my initial rating would've happily sat in the range of a 3.5 but for a lot of the reasons you like this album I grew to detest it. Yes, that bass presence is downright awesome. The production itself leaves me little room for argument but that's about where my love stopped here.



After a few more listens the rather formulaic writing structure became forced, and repetitive in idealism - basically I grew quickly tired of the death metal rung chord/clean arpeggio note flurry combinations that popped up all-too-much. The features I liked... the straight-forwardness stuck out for this reason. It stopped being technical but more of an exercise of "how many times can we do this before anyone notices?"



Add to that the issue I have with these 'filler' instrumental tracks that add nothing to this album and simply attempt some wankery in the hopes of drawing a new fan or two in. They miss the mark by a lot. The occasional pops of clean vocals are a cringe and the lack of vocal dexterity there would be better suited to licking mold of the underside of a public toilet seat.



You can put it down to different strokes/different folks if you like. I can see why the lateral rather than forward thinking would appeal to a listener that's grown off/become disillusioned by the more frenetic shtick that tech-death has moved into.



edit: adjusted rating.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I see what you're getting it, but I don't believe this is quite as linear or predictable as you're making it out to be. "Frogs in the Distance" is certainly the go-to example there, where the opening two-minutes are absolutely blistering and shake up the pace quite a bit.



And it does admittedly amount, to a partial or greater extent, to my disillusionment. I recall for instance the reception for Archspire's release in 2017, which was incredibly technical and fast-paced. I enjoyed it (3.5), but couldn't buy fully into the hype; everything bled together as far as I could tell. The technicality could only go so far.

Shadowmire
July 29th 2019


5118 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice review and outstanding album that most people will misunderstand. channels anata a bit.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Welcome to the party my friend! Nice Anata callback

TheNotrap
July 30th 2019


11604 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Your summary puzzled me, I have to check this old-timer tech

Digging: Humanity's Last Breath - Abyssal

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 30th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

If you appreciate tech death that isn't as techy and is more concerned with ambiance/progression, this'll work out for you.

TheNotrap
July 30th 2019


11604 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I can handle that



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