Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Album Review: Caspian - Waking Season

Album Rating: A+
It's been three years since Tertia, and while it's not an extended period of time, Caspian's back. One might even say, vigorously. While the recordings they did earlier this year, Live at Old South Church were something to hype fans up, it was truly nothing to the point that the new album brings. Waking Season is just...something else entirely. From start to finish, it's a different experience. Caspian did some rethinking with a lot of their instrument tones and everything sounds in place. Everything feels right. Waking Season feels like the ultimate post-rock record; all layers mesh together like a woven quilt, aligning every important aspect of music, beauty, and life.

Where does one even begin, describing an album that describes itself? I'll start with instrument tones, that I mentioned briefly in the introduction. In previous records, Caspian's had some fantastically written tracks that I've not liked as well as I should have, and it may have to do with their choice of guitar tone, or something that affects the mood of the song very minimally. However, when listening to Tertia's "Of Foam And Wave," I'm just not as stricken as I should be - the guitar tones feel clunky, muted, and graceless. They don't dance or float with the airiness the lines they're playing should have, and it bothers me to the point where I'm just satisfied with the listen. When I first picked up Waking Season, though, I was immediately enamored with "Gone In Bloom And Bough" because it all sounded fitting. There were clean tones where there should have been clean tones, and the clarity that the guitar lines spoke to me with was starkly contrasted by the distorted drums and Mogwai-esque robotic voices; it was like picking up Mr. Beast as written by Moonlit Sailor, with the tempered calm and aggressive lows that Mogwai achieves so well, but infusing the best elements of Colors In Stereo, Moonlit Sailor's latest, natural sounding, and aesthetically-pleasing post-rock release. The song is fantastic from beginning to end, with a very appropriate fall and rise again, bringing almost endless satisfaction to the listener with such a wonderfully long and rewarding ballad.

Caspian's done a lot of branching out with the new record as well. Waking Season shows a strong embracing of electronic effects in the writing, with tracks like "Halls Of The Summer" and "High Lonesome" depicting so very clearly. "Halls of the Summer" portrays an older 65daysofstatic-style glitch drumming line, whereas "High Lonesome" has that sound-bending synthesizer at the beginning that sounds like "Birds," the opening track of M83's Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts. It's great to hear a traditionally instrumental band branch out and really hinge on the experimental genre they depict themselves as so often; by embracing new techniques and sounds to create the same feeling as their older albums, they bring an entirely different level of creativity that'll be hard to match in the future for them, without even mentioning what other bands will have to compete with to get afloat in the genre.

With all of what's changed on the new record, it stands to be mentioned - is there enough of the band's post-metal side within the album? Or is that simply a thing of the past, never to be seen again in Caspian's repertoire? Aspects can be seen in many of their songs - the back end of "Halls Of The Summer" carries a distorted, chugging outro and tips its hat to Tertia well; "Porcellous" tells a tale of hard times, with gritty details and a not-so-pleasing ending, with plenty of pain and tragedy portrayed musically; and "Fire Made Flesh" carries that heavier burden with it as well, throwing in a dark track as a fitting outro to an appropriate light album, showing fans that they haven't softened, not completely. No, I don't think they've strayed far from post-metal, but they did want to show fans that they can be radically different and still portray a similar feel, that emotion that wells up hot inside you like an inner flame, something only Caspian can bring. Something they've perfected over their near ten years as a band together. Something that's shown now, here on this record.

Some might tell you otherwise, and some might criticize me for boldly saying so, but I think there is simply nothing wrong with this record. The band themselves might have something they wish had gone differently with it, but I truly think they have not erred on this album even one time, slight as it may be. They have everything I could have ever wanted and more, going the distance to outdo themselves, and create a new standard for music that shoots up to the heavens. This will be a hard album to top, as a fair warning to all other bands in the genre. Pick it up quick when it drops, and enjoy, dear readers, as I've enjoyed. Bask in what Caspian has to give, while they're still willing to give. Enjoy Waking Season in all its creative, majestic glory.

The album releases next Tuesday, September 25. To listen to everything else Caspian has to offer, and to make sure you can hear it as soon as it comes out, take a look at their Bandcamp, and watch their website for pre-order news and instruction.

Track Listing:
01) Waking Season
02) Porcellous
03) Gone In Bloom And Bough
04) Halls Of The Summer
05) Akiko
06) High Lonesome
07) Hickory
08) Long The Desert Mile
09) Collider In Blue
10) Fire Made Flesh

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