Released: April 2015
- Rory Gilhespy: Drums
- George Linacre: Bass
- Rob O’Murphy: Guitars
- Sam Beattie: Guitars
- Echoes and Reflections
- Discovery One
- Falling Faintly Through the Universe
- This is Not for You
- Turn Skyward
- Contact Light
There are a handful of bands out there that I feel kind of proprietary about. I regard them as “my” bands, and I’m happy to share them with the rest of you. Some are unknown DIY work-out-of-the-basement outfits, and others relatively well-known, and of course they existed before I found them (in some cases for a considerable time before), but that’s not the point. They are still “mine”.
One of these bands is Eschar, a post-metal foursome from Surrey, UK. I was lucky enough to see them live a while back, on a bill with three other superb independent post-rock outfits (a lineup that might rank as the best multi-band gig I have ever seen in terms of band-to-band quality). At the time they had a 5-track EP (Elements) that they had released a few years earlier, which showed great promise, and I was thrilled to be able to see them. They in turn were blown away by the fact that someone in North America had even heard of them, let alone had come to a gig. So…proprietary. 🙂
Nova is Eschar’s first full-length album, and it has more than fulfilled the promise of the EP. There has been a great leap in song writing chops and confidence since Elements, and some real maturity and sophistication is on display; these guys haven’t been sitting around, that is clear. At first the album didn’t completely grab me; it was heavy and musical but the tracks came across as a bit samey – which alas is one of the downsides of the post-rock genre as a whole. However, there was something about the album; something that kept drawing me back to try again. I’m glad I did, because at last, it clicked, and it has become one of my favourite releases of the year so far.
The space-themed song titles introduced in the Elements EP carry on over to Nova, including some direct references to the 2001 Space Odyssey franchise. The songs are deceptively complex, building in intensity, developing their themes, with expert shifts in direction. While they are thumpingly riff-heavy and dense, melody is never forgotten. There is some variability across the album as a whole, but at worst the tracks are eminently listenable, and suggest that there is still much promise for the future. However, the best tracks are monstrous with hypnotic riffage and powerfully layered guitar and bass, staying respectful of musicality while blowing your head off.
And the best…right smack in the middle of the album is a triplet of tracks that elevate this album above the vast majority of post-metal contenders. It begins with the transitional “Echoes and Reflections”, a slow, building, repetitive riff of drone electronica that leads into a behemoth of a song, “Discovery One”.
If I did a “Songs of the Year” list (which I don’t at the moment, but who knows) then “Discovery One” would be near the top of it. This is an epic piece, thick with guitar and bass riffage until it transitions into a chugging, driving, ear-blastingly dense and compelling reiteration of the previous track. This song deserves to be played often, and loudly. Screw the neighbours. “Discovery One” is followed by “Falling Faintly Through the Universe”, intense guitar chords driven along by a lushly thick and heavy bass guitar theme. These three tracks make up the true core of the album.
The only real downside to the album is that some of the tracks take a bit too long to get where they are going – Eschar have not yet found that fine line between building anticipation, and hanging on a bit too long and having interest drop; this did happen to me more than once before the change in direction snapped attention back again. With a few more hooks, and tighter song structure, and as long as they do not lose their sense of musicality, their next album should be killer. As it is, Nova is a great first album from an outfit that has a lot of potential. And if you can manage to see them, go do it. Tell them I say Hi.