Long Distance Calling- TRIPS
FFO- Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, Post Rock, Atmospheric
Long Distance Calling has been on my radar since I discovered the band with their 2nd album, 2009's Avoid The Light. That album really changed how I looked at music at the time and really helped me embrace what I now enjoy: emotional passages, soundtrack style movements of peaks and valleys, highs and lows, heavy and light; and above all, the idea that nothing is off limits as long as it makes sense to you, musically. With Long Distance Calling, that has always been a driving focus of the band. With the band's 5th album (and 7th release overall) TRIPS, the band continues to follow the path of making the music that is right for them and hopefully the fans will be there along for the ride. Admittedly, this is a bit of a polarizing album. This album goes into different territory from very catchy, almost Top 40 mainstream moments to very dark moments to very symphonic moments. TRIPS is very much like the name implies...a trip. A trip of the mind and soul. Strap in and let me tell you all about it!
The album starts with a bit of a rude awakening with Getaway. By rude awakening, I mean a perfect throwback to the 1980s soundtracks we all (of a certain age) know and love. The synths really drive this and make you feel like you are about to watch Blade Runner or Escape From New York. It's very rhythm based and very simple by LDC's standards, but that is what makes the song great. An elongated intro track to the album, if you will. It also really gives a great impression of what the theme of the album is all about. Next up is Reconnect. This is the first track on the album that features vocals by vocalist Petter Carlsen. The song starts off a bit more modern alternative sound with a driving synth track. the chorus brings the track a bit more on the heavy side while still maintaining it's catchiness. Overall, a great track. Rewind is one of the more emotional tracks on the album and really summarizes what the band is all about in 2016. It starts very somber with emotional vocals and piano that slowly builds up with lone guitar strikes and pulsing drums. The lyrics of the song can really bring a tear to your eye if heard at the right time (it almost has for me a few times now). The song overall has a bit of a Dredg influence in terms of the depressing but emotional and by proxy, uplifting, feel to it. A sheer highlight of the album. Trauma is the next track and it is the next instrumental. This one bring you back to the song, Long Distance Calling, from the band's Self Titled album. Different enough, of course, but a great driving instrumental track that has heavy riffs, prog flavoring and will make older fans of the band very happy. One standout part of the song is the driving bass lines of Jan Hoffmann in the middle section. It definitely brings a great driving feel to the ,otherwise, atmospheric segment of the song. Those that wanted a heavier song from LDC got it with this one. Lines is the first track (and as I'm writing this only track) that has been released so far. The song starts off feeling very Alternative Rock, especially in the vocals. From others I've heard some people say there is a Muse influence. I've heard others even say Hoobastank influence, of all things. The shining moment of the song and easily one of my favorite moments from the band, EVER, is the chorus. From the driving instrumentation to the powerful vocals, it made the song go from a cool modern rock sounding song to an absolute powerhouse. The instrumental section of the song brings back the atmosphere that songs like The Nearing Grave off Avoid The Light and even more so, Middleville off of the Self Titled album, that give great contrast to the rest of the song. The ending with the repeated chorus makes the song impossible not to headbang to. If there was ever a song from a band of this caliber to break out into Radio Rock and change Radio Rock for the better, it's this track! Presence brings things back to a more mellow vibe as an interlude. Starting with guitar, synths and ending with spoken word that leads way into the more upbeat, Absolution era of Muse, vibe with Momentum. This track is a great instrumental that really speaks without vocals (which is always a fantastic element of LDC). It's at a heartbeat tempo rate and very busy playing from everyone involved, especially drummer Janosch Rathmer. 3/4ths into the song, it brings back a heavy Avoid the Light feel that I very much enjoy. The song ends with far away synths that fade away. This of course leads to the last track with vocals, Plans. This has a very Post Rock feel to it with it's clean guitar, and electronic sounding synths and drums. The vocals gain a tremendous amount of power in the chorus. A little over half way through the song, it starts to build into a much more symphonic moment, not usually seen with the band. Gaining heaviness slowly but surely, with the synth strings helping the build, it builds up into a classic LDC riff at 5:02 and going to the end that older fans will love and appreciate. The final track, Flux, is the longest song on the album as a 12 minute plus instrumental that, once again, brings back the memories of Avoid The Light, the S/T album, even all the way back to the band's first EP, Satellite Bay. While a majority of the song stays more mellow, it constantly builds. A little under half way through the song, it builds into a fantastic heavy riff that leads into a more subdued moment once again. Again, Hoffmann shows off how to make a fantastic and groovy bass line in this moment right before the guitar kicks back into the song with a killer clean solo. The last quarter of the song brings the atmospheric moments back with a very emotional movement that almost feels like you are about to crash land in a heroic way. The final moments brings back the piano, synths, and spoken word that brings you back to reality, a sad reality of how life and the universe really works.
TRIPS is an album that centers around taking a trip through space and time. Before and after the time of Man, entering areas we have never seen before, moments we wanna go back to, moments we wish we could redo, and really thinking about how our lives work the way they do. Like anyone reading this. I know I have my share of regrets. Not spending enough time with family or friends, letting bridges burn, making choices that altered my life in different ways. This really gives you that short feeling of entering your psyche and exploring what could be if you had those opportunities to go back in time or rocket yourself ahead in time. The overall message of the album is clear. Make the most of the time you have on Earth. Never take any moment for granted and enjoy everything that you can. As you can tell, the album has definitely resonated with me in a big way and hopefully, if this reviews makes you at all interested, if will for you as well. While it's a bit premature to say for sure, I think this has potential to not only be one of the best albums of 2016, but I dare say, TRIPS may be my favorite Long Distance Calling album to date!
Long Distance Calling- TRIPS available April 29th through Inside Out Music
Trees On Mars started in January 2013 and in that almost 2 year span have created their debut album, The Sapling, which will be coming out November 4th. Grant Tyler (Guitar), Hayden Graham (Guitar) and Scott Barber (Bass & Drums) come from Columbia, SC with their unique spin on Instrumental Prog. While many Instrumental albums are either way too short or start to feel too long, The Sapling comes in at just a tad over 35 minutes, which is nearly perfect. Along with a perfect album length, the songs are all well crafted and flow together seamlessly. Let's divulge into this spectacular album.
The album starts with It's Not But It Isn't, which has a very unique start by fusing together acoustic, almost Bluegrass sounding guitar work over Progressive Metal. Once the song fully kicks in it shifts into many forms. One thing to particularly notice on this song is Barber's fantastic use of drum fills right before the end of the song. After this comes Hey Man, That's Not Cool. But unlike the song title, it is indeed very cool (haha, play on words). The song is upbeat and very melodic with it's Prog roots and ends with a nice mellow note held out. In The Wake starts off sounding very melancholic and brooding, slowly getting heavier and heavier. The second half of the song, after some nice fill work again by Barber, gets into Doom Metal territory and slowly fades out. The tempo picks up again on Niacin. This song would not be out of place on a Scale The Summit album, and that is very much a good thing. The last quarter of the song gets very aggressive with some blast beats and some very thrashy guitar work, which adds some diversity into the sound. Birds & Squirrels is another awesome uptempo song. It is very catchy and a great song that leaves you wanting more. Blueberry Jam comes up next and brings things down to a nice mellow jam session. It has a great Post Rock feel throughout. The guitar work near the middle of the song, while simplistic, really shines through and is so pleasing to the ear. While being one of the more mellow and simplistic songs on the albums, it is easily one of the best and a great change of pace for the album. Ode To The Vulture (Featuring Plini) is the longest song on the album at just over 5 minutes. This song is arguably the best showcase of what Trees On Mars is all about. Phenomenal songwriting from everyone in the band and 22 year old Australian guitarist Plini, really shines as well with his guitar solo roughly half way through the song. Just a very fun and catchy song all the way through. First Place At The Turtle Race, much like the name sort of eludes to, starts off quite mellow and gradually picks up the pace in tempo and musicality. The song shifts quite a few times throughout everything from Jazz to Samba to Post Rock with tremolo guitar. The song is an incredible rush of a feeling. Explosions On Olympus Moons has a very spacey vibe. Throughout the song it feels like you are floating in outer space (While not sounding the same, think of the imagery in the video for Mastodon's Oblivion with a heavier Pink Floyd vibe musically). This a great song to hear at night and just relax. The album ends with Would You Believe Me If I Told You I've Been There Before. It starts off somewhat as the album begins with acoustic guitars in the background over Prog Metal. It's a fantastic song to end the album with, much like Drifting Figures was the perfect song to end Scale The Summit's The Collective. It keeps building and building then suddenly fades away.
Trees On Mars is well on their way to become one of the best bands that Instrumental Prog can offer. Throughout the album you can hear so many shades of the band's influences with it all flowing together and sounding authentic and organic. And with production and mixing from Eyal Levi (arguably one of the greatest up and coming producers in music, let alone Metal) it adds such clarity and quality to the overall experience. Once The Sapling springs to life November 4th, 2014, things will only get bigger and bigger for Trees On Mars.
Trees On Mars- The Sapling available November 4th, 2014 via Bandcamp
- Josh Rundquist