It’s January.1 This means dreary weather, a brutal fucking time at work when all my clients realize they didn’t get much done in December so everything is suddenly urgent, and choosing a random promo from the pool based on names alone. I selected Nostromo by Elden on the basis of being both a literature and sci-fi nerd (Joseph Conrad’s 1904 novel and Alien, respectively, though Alien itself is referencing Conrad by naming its ship Nostromo), hoping the resultant album would invoke a similarly strong response. How fare these Swedes when embarking in their own vessel called Nostromo?
Nostromo could be justifiably likened to Mastodon or The Sword as a record that bridges heavy, progressive and stoner metal. The old school flavor of the solos and shouted vocals assimilates the ’80s, while the twisting rhythms and (sometimes) dynamic riffs touch on prog. The largest piece of this pie is the stoner influence which is most obvious through the strong guitar orientation in both the mix and thick, meaty tones utilized. Elden also occasionally strays towards doom, such as in the introduction to “Creature Follows,” which could have been lifted from one of the big American doom acts of the day, such as Khemmis.
Considering the component genres forming Elden, it should not be a shock that riffs are the principal tool through which they convey their music. The riffs are the greatest strength of the record which is, unsurprisingly, a positive for a metal album. Wielding a hefty chug running from the introduction into the first verse, “Fossilised” will only fail to get your head moving if you’re dead. “Nostromo” excels in a similar place, using a deep, moshable groove that bridges the introduction and song proper. It’s simple but has a big impact. Good though the riffs can be, I am also compelled to note that they’re almost too high in the mix as the vocals and drums are both slightly quiet by comparison. After several listens I think the riffs, in general, aren’t quite as strong as they initially seem; it’s just that they’re unavoidably pushed to the forefront.
The other element on Nostromo which I appreciate ultimately only serves to highlight another deficiency. “Nostromo” is much better in its introduction and the stripped back passage around 3:00 as these are different from the standard Elden sound. The typically (but not exclusively) mid-paced approach is rapidly dreary and my overarching comment of Nostromo is that the standard sound lacks dynamism and consequently becomes boring. My first thought was that this may be attributable to a brickwalled master; when the bass, drums, and guitars are all rolling at the same time, each lacks definition. While you can read below that the dynamic range is actually not bad, I’m still not satisfied with the production. Similarly, “Fossilised” crosses from a big, noodly solo to a slow but definite crescendo towards its conclusion, which layers riffs and develops pace until the big finale. It’s a welcome chunk of dynamism and conveys the idea that things are moving from A to B, as opposed to simply traversing a bland, flat landscape. Not much occurs in the opening two minutes of “Heavy Rain” but I prefer the simple, slow-burning introduction to much of the music moving at its ordinary pace and volume, which is a bit of a dire comment.
I don’t tend to focus on vocals so much as some of my colleagues, and I hate to decry one element of a collective enterprise, but I’m not a fan of these vocals. A shouted style is employed which is nominally fine, and the execution is not technically bad, but they’re very generic. I don’t feel any emotion in their delivery; metal is an emotion-driven genre (for example, anger, anguish or passion generally) but I’m not feeling any of this. The image invoked is not one of a man translating strong thoughts and feelings into music, but rather a literal one of a man shouting into a microphone. I want the music I enjoy to transcend its recording studio origins and transport me to a thematic destination (battlefield, Hell, bedroom) but none of these glamorous spots are reached. Even with the vocals being somewhat low in the mix, I enjoy Nostromo more without them.
The summary position is that this music is not actively bad. As a result, I wouldn’t take particular pleasure in dumping on Elden. But I’m just not enthused, engaged, or otherwise remotely interested in spending more time with them beyond this review. I find that the band doing their “ordinary” sounds boring and only find interest when they’re breaking down or ramping up.