Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Album Review - Communic - Where Echoes Gather

Every so often, a band comes around that makes you stop in your tracks and realize "this is what I've been wanting without even knowing it." While Nevermore was busy making a name for themselves, I wasn't interested, which is why it was so surprising to me that Communic bowled me over with "Waves Of Visual Decay". That album was such a skillful blend of progressive and thrash metal, with baritone vocals and catchy melodies, that it took the sound Nevermore was making famous, and made it better, at least for me. Since then, however, even Communic hasn't been able to recapture that moment in time, releasing nothing since that has come close to that apex.

This time around, Communic is bringing us all the usual elements of their sound, but wrapped up in a new package. This is their most progressive album yet, with three tracks so sprawling they are presented in multiple parts. Communic's ability to stretch their songs into those seven-to-nine minute lengths is what has separated them from other bands of this style, as they did it with such ease that it never felt gimmicky.

That's a bit less the case here. Take the opening "Pulse Of The Earth" set. The first of the two tracks bobs and weaves through myriad ideas, stopping and starting on a dime. There isn't always an obvious logic to the how or why the riffs and tempo changes, but just when you think the song is going to end without delivering, the end finds one of those beautiful melodies rise up. It's just unfortunate that it only appears once at the end of each part of the song. There is certainly the basis of a great Communic track in these two, but the focus isn't tight enough on the songwriting to bring it all together.

Listening to the title track, it almost takes me back to the first time I heard "Waves Of Visual Decay". It's true not much has changed in the Communic sound, but there are, pardon the pun, echoes of that album that arise more than I've heard on the preceding albums. That feeling comes up in the three individual tracks as well. "Moondance" has the same sense of foreboding doom, while "Where History Lives" is the hookiest song on the album.

That being said, there is something about Communic's songwriting that binds every song together more than they should. The sonic palate is not very diverse, and the melodies share enough of their cadences that the songs blend into one another on the record, and from album to album. The only real difference between this and any other Communic record is the inclusion of a few more prog riffs in the instrumental breaks. You could drop any of these songs onto any Communic album without sounding out of place. That's great for fans of the band, but it doesn't make a strong case for this particular album if there isn't anything unique to be said about it.

At the end of the day, Communic is going to sound like Communic, and that's a good thing."Where Echoes Gather" is easily their best effort since "Waves Of Visual Decay", and it gets better both as it goes along, and the more you go back to it. The initial impression you get from the onset isn't what you will leave with. In time, the years Communic spent between records was put to good use, as this is a definite step up from where they were the last time I heard them. Making melancholy metal isn't easy, and Communic is one of the bands that has shown the ability to do it well. "Where Echoes Gather" is their best effort in several records, and is a satisfying return to form.

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