Elder, Omens (Armageddon)

Stoner doomers Elder have always been about more than just Sabbath and patched jean jackets. Over their epic four album run leading up to Omens these Bostoners have emerged from the repetitive riff ghettos with increasingly technical arrangements verging on full-tilt prog, and here they dial it back and ease into a decidedly melancholy and forlorn, but quite beautiful, series of soundscapes that ring like a green world sanitized of humans. The leadoff title cut is a hell of a way to kick off a record, with not a hint of subtlety anywhere in sight but plenty of glacial synths, ELP noodling, and shredtastic shredding that all somehow doesn’t come across as pretentious. Even the vocals have shifted and are cleaner, at points even decipherable, which somehow makes the whole maelstrom even more otherworldly. The slow burning “In Procession” ebbs and flows from menacing low-energy soundscapes to mind-melting climaxes; this is the song to play in five years time as you watch California slide into the ocean. “One Light Retreating”, however, is the sound of the land mass rising once again from the waves, cleansed and returned to its origin story, thunderous and crushing the new coastal natives where they stand. Ethereal and gorgeous, “Halcyon” is like dunking your brain into a deep clean and putting it back in shiny and new, while “Embers” locates the previously unknown point where earnest DC early emo meets King Crimson pomp and circumstance. In each given year since 1977 there have been fewer and fewer sounds that can truly be labeled as “new”, and with Omen we have just that; an exploratory but oddly accessible strike into dangerous virgin lands.