Review Summary: An account of life’s inherent bleakness and despair translated beautifully through a rich musical template constituted by amazing vocals, crushing post-metal and splendid progressive tangents.Latitudes
is a post-metal collective hailing from the United Kingdom, who burst onto the post-metal scene with their gritty, largely instrumental debut record Agonist
. They followed up that effort with their equally remarkable sophomore release, 2012’s Individuation
, containing a powerful blend of post-metal and ambient music with immersive atmospheres spread across the record’s extensive, textured soundscapes. Now, after their somewhat lacklustre Old Sunlight
has graced us with an absolutely mesmerizing record, which traverses new and exciting musical ground, tops their earlier releases in style and presents us with their most emotionally rewarding music yet.
The aforementioned permutations in Latitude’s
aesthetic tendencies become immediately apparent on the album’s majestic opener 'Underlie'. Soft, canorous guitars in conjunction with Adam Symonds’s heart-wrenchingly beautiful vocal melodies, help craft an ethereal, textured traipsing build which precipitously erupts into a crushing yet soaring post-metalesque crescendo. This initial taste of Latitude’s
new musical disposition is emblematic for the remaining 6 tracks on this release. Their musical template has been diversified through the addition of several interesting aesthetic elements, according their cotemporary aggregation of aesthetic penchants a rather novel face. Consequently, Latitudes
are now in possession of a new, far more kaleidoscopic set of musical colours with which to paint their musical canvass: a proprietary mixture of shoegaze, post-rock, post-metal, melodic mid-tempo black-metal alongside Opethian acoustic juxtapositions and sporadic employment of synths and pianos all accompanied by Symond’s powerful vocals.
The latest of those elements mentioned in the above enumeration does require special mention, for with this release Latitudes
have, for the first time in their discography, implemented vocals on every single track and they’re certainly a welcome addition. Symond’s range is remarkable, as he discharges an array of immaculate vocal performances on this record. His singing is unmistakably beautiful, sometimes innocently serene, sometimes powerfully soaring, yet always draped in an acute sense of sorrow, despair, melancholy, regret and perpetually displaying a feeling of profound vulnerability. To say his vocals form the backbone of the album’s musical journey, would be an exaggeration, however they certainly amplify its emotional severity, whilst perfectly accompanying the record’s ethereal instrumentations. His soothing vocal melodies on the opening track or his gorgeous singing on 'Fallowness' serve as surefire evidence of the man’s incredible vocal ability.
The vocal melodies on this record are accompanied by amazingly intricate, empyreal guitar playing. Delicate post-rock melodies, pummelling post-metal strumming and lightning fast tremolo-picking apace with tasteful acoustic sections, constitute the bulk of this record’s guitar work. Accompanied by hammering, strikingly resonant drumming, ala Inter Arma
manage to create lush, textured, layered, captivating compositions which possess deeply engulfing atmospheres that can swallow the listener whole. When all the aforementioned musical elements accumulate during the album’s grandest crescendos it’s truly a sight to behold. Especially during the album’s closer, 'Part Island', when the unrelenting drums, scrumptious guitars and soaring vocals come together to create a genuinely mesmeric apotheosis to an already impressive record.
As far as the album’s compositional structures are concerned, Latitudes
doesn’t sway from their post-metal roots. The songs are structured in accordance to a compositional model one might refer to as ‘The Peaks and Valleys’ design. Tracks are generally loosely construed containing largely fluid structures, with the only constant being the fact that they always culminate into one or more crescendoesque moments. The music ebbs and flows constantly with tempos seemingly moving from slow to mid before suddenly detonating into a crescendo when the next peak has been reached, after which it slowly subsides into the next valley. These constant compositional and tempo-related musical vacillations give the compositions a certain flare and variety preventing the moderately longwinded tracks on the album from becoming overly stale or annoyingly repetitive.
The album’s production also stays true to the post-metal philosophy, which, as it relates to music production, can be accurately summarized with the following apophthegm: ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. This entails every instrument on Part Island
is given equal space in the mix, never causing one musical element to assert its presence at the expense of the others, allowing for a seamless amassing of all musical constituents on this record into a cohesive whole. Everything sounds extremely clear and quite pristine, yet not so overly polished as to completely detract from the emotional impact of the album. Arguably, the production on this record is as close to perfect as it could possibly be; one might even be inclined to describe it as immaculate.
have crafted one of the best post-metal records of 2019, with wonderfully beautiful vocal performances, ethereally sublime guitar melodies, powerful yet intricate riffs, deafening drums, nigh-impeccable production and an engrossing atmosphere, all wrapped up in a set of varied, dynamic, cohesive yet immediate compositions. Part Island
is a record worthy of superlatives which provides an account of life’s inherent bleakness and despair, perennially dripped in a melancholic nebula, telling tales of separation and isolation in times in which unity has seemingly slipped from the limelight. The band displays a maturity and emotional sensibility on this record, previously unmatched and one can only hope they will succeed in emulating the quality of this album on subsequent releases. I know I will be looking forward to see whether they will be successful in that effort, although I must admit, topping this release will be no mean feat.