Innate Passage

rating icon 9 / 10

Track listing:

01. Catastasis
02. Endless Return
03. Coalescence
04. Merged In Dreams — Ne Plus Ultra
05. The Purpose

Some bands just have a special something. ELDER stood apart from the start, almost immediately transcending the doom and stoner rock scenes that gave them their initial platform. From their 2008 self-titled debut album to the sprawling, prog-drenched phantasmagoria of 2020's "Omens", the now Berlin-based quartet have always aimed higher and wider than the vast majority of their peers. As a result, great things are always expected when ELDER release a new record. Cultivated during lockdown, but refined in the flesh, "Innate Passage" is every bit as adventurous as its predecessor, while also being considerably heavier. The best of all possible worlds, one might say.

Led by frontman and founder Nick DiSalvo, ELDER have completed their transformation into a progressive rock band, albeit one that still exerts huge, doom-powered weight. Recent-ish recruits, drummer Georg Edert and guitarist Mike Risberg, struck upon instant chemistry with DiSalvo and bassist Jack Donovan on "Omens", and despite some geographical barriers (Donovan still lives in Massachusetts),that shared intuition is on display throughout the follow-up. "Innate Passage" showcases an amazing band performing as one, with that special something very much in evidence throughout.

Opener "Catastasis" begins as a seamless amalgam of doom metal and space rock, before DiSalvo's voice appears amid a mellow, watery groove, buoyed by bittersweet harmonies and a thick layer of Mellotron. Although still constructed around the punctuation of riffs, everything flows more naturally than ever before, like the perma-blossoming musical mutations of YES transferred to a post-SABBATH plane. "Endless Return", while slightly less transcendent, has gentle echoes of both LED ZEPPELIN and RUSH, but twists them into something more epic and exploratory than either. "Coalescence" is like one, long shimmer, with ELDER slowly stretching every sinew in the pursuit of cosmic salvation, as riffs cascade and spidery arpeggios swirl. "Merged In Dreams – Ne Plus Ultra" goes even further out into the astral wilderness, with waves of soporific, Floydian drift, blasts of high-energy fusion rock and a bewitching mid-song detour into starry-sky ambience. In comparison, closer "The Purpose" is a more straightforward affair, but one so lush and densely layered that it ends "Innate Passage" on an overwhelming high.

Brave and ingenious but heavy enough to level mountains, ELDER have seldom put a foot wrong. But even by their own lofty standards, "Innate Passage" is a miraculous and profoundly progressive musical trip.

Author: Dom Lawson
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