Rock fans are numb to bands that crib the blues-rock riffs of LED ZEPPELIN's first three albums. What's rarer is a band that evokes the headier back-half of that vaunted legacy band's catalog. ELDER have spent the last few years welding the approach of modern acts such as MASTODON and BARONESS with a flair for sprawling jam-outs that are reminiscent of the times that the almighty ZEP shot for the stars with blistering energy on tracks like "Achilles Last Stand". The results on albums such as 2017's "Reflection of a Floating World" would indicate that more bands would be well-inclined to raid that lesser-mined portion of a legendary songbook.
ELDER's latest effort, "Omens", however takes a step back from that influence. With band founder/guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo and longtime bassist Jack Donovan now augmented by new guitarist Michael Risberg and new drummer Georg Edert, the band explored a different path on their musical trail with their 2019 EP, "The Gold & Silver Sessions", and indulged in a more introspective exploration of proggier and more overtly krautrock indulgences. It's a testament to how well the new members have gelled within ELDER's decade-long blueprint that the excursion into quieter territory was as compelling as their previous work. If "Omens" is any indication, the tricks that the band picked up on that side trek are now permanently merged into their sound moving forward.
The heavy music map is littered with other bands that have slipped, stumbled, and bumbled while making such a shift away from all-out jams to more restrained songcraft. ELDER luckily manages to avoid those pitfalls. All five tracks are still in the 10-to-12-minute range as on previous records, but the band quickly figured out a solid formula for how to integrate the new toys they have to play with on "Omens". Every track — save for the appropriately titled "One Light Retreating", which inverts this formula — follows a set template of a quiet and Moog-ish keyboard intro followed by the bulk of the song settling in between restrained prog rock and more modern atmospheric post rock, and all of those things together climaxing in a display of catchy solos delivered by bombastic guitar.
In the end, it is that sense of bombast that keeps ELDER's new foray from sounding like a wet blanket. While the quieter moments here share a parallel with journeys into '70s rock taken by the aforementioned BARONESS — a parallel bolstered by DiSalvo's vocal similarities to that band's leader John Baizley — the Boston quartet also echoes that group's propensity for keeping their guitars sounding big and arena-sized to maintain an aura of power. The guitar work from DiSalvo and Risberg is structured with a larger sound in mind, with solos that conjure up the visual image of SOUNDGARDEN's Kim Thayil shredding away in the classic video for "Black Hole Sun".
For folks that are already on the ELDER bandwagon, hearing that things get a little quieter on "Omens" might cause one to approach with trepidation. The band however uses the above powers and capabilities to reward listeners with another engaging chapter in their musical evolution.