Mastodon. Deafheaven. Baroness. Each clawed marks into the well walls as they hoisted themselves out of the filth and muck that is (say it with a shudder) the metal crowd and into the limelight. Likewise, Elder follow, riding the crossover appeal of 2017’s Reflections of a Floating World to respectability by the masses, and not just the unwashed kind. But the New England outfit aren’t just the next indie darling, and were never just metal for metal’s sake. Their proggy tendencies always lurked beneath the surface to some degree; Reflections was simply the unveiling. With a new LP on the horizon, The Gold & Silver Sessions takes Elder in a direction I didn’t expect, but perhaps should have. This isn’t just prog; it’s out-and-out jam.
Despite the title of the EP, Elder have never been less Baroness. In fact, they’ve shared less common ground with any of their prior influences—or releases—than ever before. Their hallmark sound, which truly came into its own on Reflections, returns in sum, but not wholly unchanged. Gold & Silver‘s instrumental nature is hardly the biggest shift, especially given that it’s almost certainly not permanent. Instead, the off-the-cuff, jam-band presentation relaxes Elder‘s already loose collar, while heavy psychedelic styling twist Elder‘s offerings into something different, yet the same. Improvisation contributed heavily to the EP, a fact evident as 36 minutes unwind around just 3 constantly undulating songs enhanced by a lack of vocals to muck up the proceedings with something as silly as song structure.
Patched together from trinkets that guitarist and vocalist Nick DiSalvo scraped from a solo album he was working on, the 18-minute “Weißensee” may not show as clear of an intent as the ten-minute “Illusory Motion,” but it’s got the best total package. The track finely molds experimental and constructed into a keen sort of balance, one that stays on the rails without feeling predictable. Its 18 minutes allow a natural trial and error to bubble up into a naturally enjoyable final product that’s both organic and repeatable. That DiSalvo performed the entire thing alone is even more impressive. While I wouldn’t say “Weißensee” completely overshadows the performance on the remaining 15 minutes, it certainly feels like the EP’s raison d’etre. “Illusory Motion” is the Reflections touchstone and offers the most direct line to the Elder we’ve come to expect. Despite its jammy composition, it’s not all that different from Reflections in style, though I come away from the ten minutes still waiting for a linchpin moment to tie the whole thing together. Without that, the song almost feels incomplete. That same experimental nature leaves Elder feeling more like a stoner metal Phish on “Im Morgengrauen.” The quality is there, but filtered only through wisps of ethereal rhythms and soft jazz vibes more than anything tangible half the time.
We rarely cover EPs like this because often times what’s the point? B-sides and unimaginative covers? Better title the next Swallow the Sun EP When a Yawn Is Forced Out of My Maw. Hell, even if it rips, it only really matters if the band was ass until then. The Gold & Silver Sessions solves that problem of relevance by offering a side of Elder that the world might not have seen otherwise. It’s possible the jam motifs stick, but I doubt they’ll be present on their next studio album in such flamboyant display. Crystallizing that style into something digestible and permanent is one of the better uses I’ve seen of the EP format. It doesn’t hurt that the music is pretty good too.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Blues Funeral Recordings
Websites: beholdtheelder.bandcamp.com | beholdtheelder.com | facebook.com/elderofficial
Releases Worldwide: July 12th, 2019