Fires in the Distance – Echoes from Deep November Review

Echoes from Deep November, the debut by unheralded Connecticut melodeath act Fires in the Distance, was originally slated to drop as a self-release way back in May. Then the band managed to get signed by Prosthetic Records and the release was pushed out to this week. When I was spinning the album back in May, I wondered why they weren’t signed, as they clearly posses talent and potential, so it’s nice to see them in the loving embrace of a label deal. Echoes of Deep November bears influences ranging from melo-death to melo-doom. Heavy, sometimes doomy riffs are paired with forlorn, trilling leads and gothy, weepy keyboards, and you’ve definitely heard it in one form or another a million times. However, it’s done well enough that you probably won’t care that it isn’t some brand new sound, and with a concept about depression and the peaks and valleys one must traverse when burdened with chronic mental illness, it feels uncannily appropriate for the dumpster fire that is 2020.

There’s a strong mid-period Dark Tranquillity vibe on opener “The Climb,” mostly due to the goth-style keyboards that drench the song in sadboi spray. While the keys twinkle and sparkle brightly, the guitars carry a large dose of Finnish melancholy with a touch of post-metal ethos, and the mood is kept bleak and cold throughout. There’s a strong sense of composition at play and hooks flow in both the riffs and the vocal phrasing. The keyboards are very present and at the cusp of becoming overly prominent, but they’re an essential cog in the band’s sound machine and they work to create a moody and memorable introduction. “Elusive Light” bends the formula into something like Amon Amarth meets Dark Tranquillity, with heavy, quasi-battle riffs submerged in a frozen lake of emo keys and morose guitar-work. Add in some atmosphere-enhancing samples and you have a strange but appetizing spread. “The Lock and the Key” veers deeply into Insomnium / Ominium Gatherum melancholy melodeath territory and does a solid job plowing that particular field. There’s a satisfyingly downtrodden feeling seeping from every ounce of the music and it’s both delightfully lush and dreary as fook.

Aside from the winning opener, the most enthralling cut is “Reflections in the Ice” where the band redeploys the Amon Amarth influence adroitly with burly death vocals and epic riffs, then coats it all with sugary but icy keys ripped straight from Atoma. There’s even a vague similarity to AmorphisKarelian Isthmus popping up here and there. While no weak selections are present, bloat is a slight issue, with several tracks feeling a tad too stretched out for the ideas presented therein. A minor problem is closing instrumental “Sundial” which feels somewhat anti-climatic after so many big set pieces. My biggest complaint is how similar the keyboard lines sound throughout the album. There’s a specific motif that keeps recurring and by the end it starts to feel overdone and monotonous. When you consider how prominent they feature in the mix, this becomes an added concern.

Echoes was originally intended to be an instrumental album and I can easily imagine it presented that way. I’m personally thankful they opted to go with vocals though, and Kristian Grimaldi does a good job with his raspy death roars. There’s an abundance of interesting guitar-work across Echoes, and Grimaldi and Yegor Savonin are skilled six-stringers. Much of what they do sits in the Finnish/Swedish melodeath buckets, but they do step out for the tougher battle riffs which add some interesting spice and punch. Savonin’s keyboards convey mood well but they would greatly benefit from some diversity in approach next time out.

What Fires wrought here isn’t perfect, but at 40 minutes it’s easy, features some inspired moments and delivers dark, brooding moods ideal for deep November. Though the material is a bit rough around the edges at times, the core style has real potential. With a little polish and elbow grease, Fires in the Distance could be onto a really promising sound. If nothing else, this will help tide fans over until the new Dark Tranquillity album drops in November. Worth checking out.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 18th, 2020

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