posted on 2/2009 By:
After the first few bars of Elder's self-titled, full-length debut, I couldn't get the ghosts of stoner-doom torchbearers Sleep out of my rearview mirror. Elder's slow, groovy riffs with vocalist/guitarist Nick DiSalvo's rumbling vocals nestled comfortably low in the mix scream Holy Mountain – at first. More listens uncover more subtle differences, other influences and a serious Conan the Barbarian fascination (see "Riddle of Steel," Parts 1 and 2).
It's arguable whether Elder even falls under the traditional "doom" tag, but genres are a point of contention anyway. Let's just say the band employs a killer guitar tone that sticks to the bottom of the scale and isn't generally in too much of a hurry. The Boston boys sound as though they split their studies between the badassery of the straightforward riff, the art of the wah pedal and the delicate points of smoking as much weed as possible. Some music (Electric Wizard, The Doors) just oozes drugginess, submerging the listener in a sea of artificial inebriation. Elder is no exception. You aren't going to buy this album with cash in a shady apartment somewhere, but it does have that trance-inducing quality that is so rarely absorbed through the ears.
The whole of the album is a mere five songs, spanning 41 minutes. That makes for a hell of a long average track duration – more than eight minutes apiece. The good news, however, is that the songs never seem repetitious or drawn out. "White Walls" has sections of gloomy groove, bucking lead work and spacy psychedelia, all nicely feathered together with a beefy central riff. "Hexe" contains traces of Fu Manchu, replacing the Fu's lighthearted boogie with lurching, sneering doom elements and "Riddle of Steel, Pt. 1" follows well, relying heavily on an unlikely hero - the wah pedal.
Throughout the record, the musicianship is tight, with drums often bashing, but gently coaxing songs forward when appropriate. The bass is subtle but not buried, and unlike many doom albums, Elder is not wont for wild guitar solos. The fancy fretwork, again, sounds akin to that of Sleep's Holy Mountain, but is more polished (in a good way), and generally more furious. This is all enhanced by a smooth production job; surprising, considering the limited resources of label MeteorCity Records. The songwriting earns high marks for putting an interesting new twist on a classic formula without pissing off devotees of the old.
I've made it thus far without comparing our present study to the ultimate doom band, but the way Elder unapologetically wear their influences on their collective sleeve, Black Sabbath must not be ignored. Tony Iommi's simplistic riffs inspired a generation to pick up the guitar and Sabb out while the young Elder were a mere thought in the ether. They missed out on the '70s, but they have played catch-up well. They make the core of both bands – the basic, memorable riff – their own, despite obvious overlap with Sabbath and other immortals. Elder offer far more than a mere retread of better-known sounds, and while imperfect, their debut album shows immense promise. For fans of stoner metal and doom, Elder comes highly recommended.
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