When we last left our heroes after the release of their self-titled debut, Elder were a young band with immeasurable potential – some of which had already made it’s way to the surface. At the conclusion of this previous episode? A cliffhanger: Would Elder live long enough to realize their full potential or would they be scattered by the cruel winds of fate? Would they bring the rest of their talents through to fruition and grow into their namesake or fall prey to the clutches of irony?
The answer is held within their sophomore release, Dead Roots Stirring.
Elder find a way to be heavy and somewhere along the way, they achieve something even more important: They find their own voice. It’s a watershed moment for a band who have clearly worked hard to achieve it. The proof is in the fact that the songs are undeniably musical. While there is a heavily melodic feel to the album as a whole, melody does not come at the expense of the groove nor does it ever dominate the song. Instead, there is an equilateral fit where the trio comes together: The guitar playing does not overshadow the drumming. The bass lines do not feel as though they lag behind in their contributions to the songs, nor do they seem obligated or designed to compete for attention.
While there is a bluesy, pentatonic flair to many of the guitar licks which bind the album to the roots and traditions of heavy rock, there’s a sense that we’re hearing is something that’s genuine. Elder open fire with “Gemini” which is centered around a couple of delicious riffs. Rather than pounding them into the ground and becoming a slave to the riff, the band use them as a foundation for actually playing together. There’s an undeniable feeling to this song and when the lyrics at the end proclaim, “I’m coming home”, as the listener, I felt like I was already there.
The title track, “Dead Roots Stirring” clocks in at over 12:00 but it flows so incredibly well that time falls away completely – one of the true blessings of good music. The melody the band presents during the first few minutes ia truly enchanting and if you don’t like what you’re hearing at this point, best just to check out now. Three to four minutes, in the boys dig their spurs in and start to kick up some dust. It’s interesting to me that mid-way through, I’m not rushing to hear what comes next. I’m not sure if that’s easy to understand, but even when listening to music that I enjoy, there is sometimes a sense of overanticipation to hear what comes next. With what Elder deliver here, the music unfolds so naturally that each note is enough from one to the next.
The third track, appropriately titled “III”, is a heavily melodic and largely instrumental piece that is full of subtle charms. By the end, the hairs on my arm have been standing up for some time. If I were forced to find criticism, one could say that it meanders a little towards the end, but I prefer to think of it as “taking the scenic route”.
“The End” delivers more of what makes this a great album and “Knot” is a densely woven landscape that continues to burn brightly until the curtain is drawn.