When listening to Elder’s fifth full-length album, I’m caught off guard by how light it feels. The textures have an ethereal brightness throughout, the mood is consistently uplifting, and any trace of the band’s stoner doom roots seems to have been completely scrubbed clean. This move isn’t too surprising when you consider the hints seen on 2017’s Reflections of a Floating World and even 2019’s The Gold & Silver Sessions, but I find myself comparing Omens to the sort of ‘life coach prog’ seen on the recent efforts by Cynic and Anathema.
With this new face presented, the musicians’ technical skills seem to have only been enhanced. The guitars, in particular, are more multi-faceted than they’ve ever been; while the heavy crunch has more in common with Steven Wilson than Electric Wizard, the cadences have that signature twang seen on past releases. The keyboards play a near equal role in shaping the tone with atmospheric filters and 70s-style mellotron. The vocals also have a powerful presence in the mix, even if they still often yield to the near-constant instrumental segments.
Speaking of which, the songwriting also keeps to established Elder tradition as the five tracks present are all elaborate leviathans hovering around the ten to twelve-minute range. “In Procession” comes the closest to reaching the heaviness of albums past though it is supplemented with its share of airy sequences that completely dominate the following “Halcyon.” I must admit that “Embers” feels like a peculiar choice for a lead single with its upbeat nature comes close to alternative rock, but it ultimately comes through.
While Omens is a rather dramatic alteration of the Elder sound on the surface, the construction method behind it remains about the same. The move to an even lighter prog sound will draw even more audiences from outside the metal sphere, but the band can’t really be accused of appealing to the lowest common denominator when the songs are still this long and packed with elaborate musicianship. It may be even more of a grower than usual, but it’s packed with the same focus and inspiration.