ALBUM REVIEW: FIRES IN THE DISTANCE - AIR NOT MEANT FOR US
CONNECTICUT'S MELODIC DOOM METAL EXPONENTS RAMP UP THE IMPACT SCALE
In the pre-vaccine, pandemic world of 2020, Connecticut’s Fires in the Distance emerged as if from nowhere with a highly impressive debut record of emotive melodic doom-tinged metal. Echoes from Deep November was hastily released by Prosthetic Records and rapidly gained interest as well as critical plaudits. The band were something of a find – here is our review of that debut here:
It’s ambitious, and somewhat high-risk, to open your second record with an 11-minute track. Harbringers is, however, a colossal windswept mountain of a song that combines ascendant yet sorrowfully lush melodies with sombre key-driven vignettes but underpinned with juddering metallic crunch. There is even a spiraling proggy solo. That sounds like a lot and it is but the song flows assuredly, glowing in sweeping cinematic proportions without being bloated. It doesn’t feel like 11 minutes and that is a good sign.
First impressions of Air Not Meant for Us is that, from almost every angle, it is a significant ramp up from its predecessor. The heavier sections of the record seem intensified with indominable walls of marauding guitar riffs such as the staccato rumbles and death metal fret work on Wisdom of Falling Leaves while Crumbling Pillars of a Tranquil Mind is decidedly more baleful with muscular death metal leanings and seething, embittered black metal vocals.
Yet the band’s metallic bombast is offset with light touches. Contrast and reflection were hallmarks of Fires in the Distance’s sound and the deployment of keys that was so prominent in the debut imbued the music with an ethereal atmosphere. The dreamy tinkling of keys were often used in wistful, haunted fairy tale-esque passages and so it is here again. This time, however, there are markedly more variations in scale, tone and patterns where keys are alternately used as background augmentation or elsewhere as a prominent component integrating, complementing and dancing with the riff work.
The other inarguable quality of this band which gained them such prompt recognition is the strength of songcraft and vivid melody which soar on this album. The incandescent, forlorn, triumphal hook lines are sumptuous. The debut was packed with these but Air Not Meant for Us boasts an abundance with wavering, arching, resplendent tuneful hooks, riffs and solos on every track. Try the epic instrumental Adrift, Beneath the Listless Waves with its reach-for-the-sky, movie end-credits dimensions for proof. It’s a fine display of musicianship and writing.
Rousing and sombre this is a more mature, ambitious and fully-integrated record that incorporates greater texture, layering, subtlety, and interplay delivered with a sense of purpose and cogency. The production is richer and full-bodied but, crucially, avoids becoming too busy allowing the various nuances of the music to breathe and flex. It’s an immensely accomplished and compelling album, both confident in execution and clever in terms of dynamics and atmospheric impact and ought rightfully to boost the band to a wider playing field.
Air Not Meant for Us is released via Prosthetic Records