Elder’s “Omens” is five epic-length tracks of pure prog (Review)

Elder, 2020

While some may view tracks lasting longer than four or five minutes a bit tedious, I find them as tests of comprehensive composition and a maintaining of the listener’s attention. For a song that long to keep the listener from hitting the skip button takes some serious talent and variety, and Elder looks to do that with their new album Omens, where every track is at least 9 minutes long. One look through their discography reveals they’ve made a habit of this, so I look to examine this band’s psychedelic/progressive bouts.

Title track “Omens” is the first of five songs on the record. A solid minute-and-a-half of synth leads into the vocals two minutes in, and a dreamy, jammy part that follows to contribute to the song’s massive length; halfway through the song, there’s no signs of fatigue, and strings transitioning into a delicate, long-winded guitar solo keep things going as the track gets a proper outro.

It’s strange to say, but the “shortest” piece, “In Procession,” clocks in at 9:21. With more synth reminiscent of Yes and Styx, Elder’s influences are wide and many in their sound. Exceptionally riff-y in nature, this track is the most accessible of the five. The last big moment sees a layered hook get more than a minute dedicated to it, deservedly-so.

The biggest test is with “Halcyon,” at almost 13 minutes. In comparison, one of my favorite EPs, Eternity Forever, is 14 minutes in length. Beginning with its jam section, the ambiance takes hold for a full 4:30 before progression takes hold. Psychedelia peeks its head in soon after, with more synth/strings mixing things up. “Halcyon” is the one piece the album has that takes some dedication to get through, which is to be expected with a song this extensive.

“Embers” was released as the lone single ahead of Omens, an understandable move as another single would mean 2/5 of the album would be available beforehand. This one gets right into the typical composition, and focuses on a hard rock jaunt with the vocals best represented here. The bass gets a great time to shine in the jam, matching up with the synthesizer.

Last but not least is “One Light Retreating.” With more mindscape presentation and a seeming ending to the song around 7:30 in, the closing processions revive and respark the interest with one last hurrah to seal the deal with Omens.

I have a lot of thoughts about Omens and Elder as a whole, and most of them are quite positive. It’s profound to present songs in a format so demanding, but this four-piece pulls it off with gusto. They may have lost me in some of the timid jam sections, but do enough to switch things up to feel content when each song is over. Fans of Opeth, Explosions in the Sky, and other acts that regularly incorporate very long songs would enjoy trying out Elder, and Omens is a great starting point!

A press copy of Omens was provided courtesy of Speak Easy PR.