Elder’s The Silver & Gold Sessions Earns Them A Place Amongst Heavy Rock Royalty
It’s no secret that we’ve been living through a renaissance of doom metal for some time. In the last decade, many acts have taken the general template laid out by Black Sabbath — guitar riffs as tasty as they are slow, an all-encompassing, womblike atmosphere and emotive singing — and rejuvenated it for the new millennium. Where would we be without the sorrowful splendor of Pallbearer, or the bluesy tragedy of Windhand?
Massachusetts prog-tinged heavy-rock trio, Elder — recently expanded into a quartet — are absolutely in the same company. They have been churning out stellar metal that mixes doom with a kaleidoscopic mix of other sounds throughout five albums in the past decade.
Even so, it seems as though Elder’s name has skimmed under the surface compared to their peers. Newcomers may be looking for an excellent place to start diving into the band’s multifaceted career.
Elder’s forthcoming release, The Gold & Silver Sessions, which is streaming exclusively below, may not actually be that place — though it’s a wonderful, stimulating listen, it’s also a bold, experimental departure for the band. The Gold & Silver Sessions, for one, are entirely instrumental. For another, two of these three songs lean heavily on live jamming, while all three dive into kosmische, the psychedelic and experimental rock tradition of Germany. Both of those influences have long been a part of Elder’s music — but a small part.
The great thing about Elder’s music, both new and old, is how immaculately constructed it tends to be. The liner notes to The Gold & Silver Sessions describe their music as “sonic pointillism”. Indeed, describing the band as painters is a comparison that they invite themselves: their 2017 masterpiece Reflections of a Floating World is named after the Ukiyo-e style of Japanese woodblock prints, which depict the samurai class with color and grace.
Elder play with similar color and grace. Rather than playing with a single tone guitarist and vocalist Nick DiSalvo, joined since 2017 by second guitarist Mike Risberg, cycle through different guitar sounds, in turn, aggressive and joyful. The band’s love of ’70s progressive rock, including groups like Yes and Gentle Giant, shows in their talent for packing a large number of riffs into a single, often ten-plus minute song.
Long songs are no new feat for doom. Doom bands have a tendency to ride a single riff or groove for a long time until it becomes hypnotic at best, but sometimes monotonous at worst. Elder never hit that monotony point: They zig-zag between different sounds, closer to classic rock one minute and closer to old school heavy metal the next. Throughout a single song, a listener can hear two or three entirely different genres.
Much of that musical complexity comes from the interpersonal chemistry that the members share, which has been honed over time. Nick, bassist Jack Donovan, and drummer Matt Couto recorded the band’s first release, a split with Queen Elephantine, in 2006 when they were teenagers.
That core trio recorded most of Elder’s discography, from their 2009 self-titled album through 2015’s breakout Lore. Along the way, the trio’s music grew more complex while releasing music with regularity. 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring thickened their pummeling riffs, lengthened their songs and introduced more texture to their compositions, and earned them a slot at The Netherlands’ esteemed Roadburn festival. Four years later, Lore doubled down on the psychedelic and classic rock influences nibbling at the corners of their music before, introducing full-on expressionist rock in the tradition of Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd.
Lore hinted at the triumph that the band executed on 2017’s Reflections Of A Floating World. The group added Mike to their ranks for that album, and enlisted pedal steel contributions from guest Michael Stamos. The added layers of sound sweeten the band’s already honeylike melodies. Instead of sounding dense, the band opened up on that album, exploring even more sonic territory. The jammy, Allman Brothers-esque Sonntag sits comfortably on that album next to Thousand Hands, which sounds a little like Love Like Blood-era Killing Joke before blasting off into stoner territory.
Next to that, The Silver & Gold Sessions is a creative sidestep informed by Nick’s relocation to Germany and constructed in part from a scrapped solo album by the guitarist — he plays every instrument on Im Morgengrauen. Putting the Atlantic Ocean between him and his bandmates hasn’t slowed Elder down, though. The band still tour regularly and play multiple festival dates per year. Better, a new, full-length studio album to be released later this year is already in the works. Until then, fans of doom’s new millennium can sate themselves with The Silver & Gold Sessions.
Hear The Silver & Gold Sessions in full right here:
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