Metal has spawned some fantastic concept albums over the years (MASTODON’s element albums, KING DIAMOND’s Abigail and GOJIRA’s From Mars To Sirius to name but a few), but it is difficult to think of a concept album that is entirely instrumental. Can an entire story be told just through music? As TELEPATHY demonstrates on their sophomore album and future post-metal classic Tempest, yes. It absolutely can.
Tempest, whose storyline follows a protagonist waking up in the aftermath of an apocalyptic storm, is a journey of epic and otherworldly proportions that paints its story in music and emotion, and the result is simply staggering. The band’s strange, alchemical mixing of concrete-slab level sludge, airy progressive metal and post metal is brilliant throughout, merging the elements of their sound into a monolithic force of nature (perfectly captured in the album’s beautiful cover art) and creating a sense of contrast between the earthy chaos of the protagonist’s ruined world and the sense of searching for something distant and uncertain, (the promise of some form of hope maybe?) or moving towards something ominous. It is a journey loaded with emotional and existential horror, despair, rage, painful longing, bleak spirituality and eventual acceptance.
The dynamics of the bands sound is wonderfully established in the one-two punch of the album’s opening tracks. After the captivating ambience of opener First Light, suddenly several sharp, piercing drumbeats puncture the ether and an explosion of sludge announces the arrival of Smoke From Distant Fires. A brilliant exercise in the build and release of sonic tension, the dichotomy of dragging sludge and swirling, airy tremolos is mesmerising throughout. The last screeching note dies away and the incredibly cinematic and sinister Celebration of Decay bursts in. Laced with elements of MASTODON, the first two and a half minutes of sludge progress at a diabolical-sounding and unquestionable stomp of vicious, predatory guitars and thoroughly menacing drum work before dissolving into more sublime, melancholy atmospherics, perfectly reflecting its title: something sad, scary and inevitable that turns into something hauntingly beautiful.
Enough really cannot be said about the instrumentation on this album, it is damn near flawless, and the band display an uncanny ability to not only vividly evoke the subject of their songs, but to make the emotions they conjure up hit, and hit hard. The softer, more mournful Echo Of Souls overflows with unimaginable grief and loss. Apparition snarls with mounting horror and supernatural dread. The unbelievably powerful Hiraeth perfectly captures the nostalgic longing of it’s title. The incredible Water Divides The Tide, like the real ocean, somehow fluctuates smoothly and naturally between beautiful peace and merciless chaos. All the way through to the epic and spiritual denouement of Metanoia, it is one visceral, utterly captivating sonic portrait after another, with every member of the band bringing their A-game throughout.
As the album progresses the band begins to experiment with the dynamics of their sound and expand their sonic pallet to include vocals and audio samples, to transcendent effect. These include the hoarse, unintelligible shrieks on the softer, more mournful Echo Of Souls, which create a picture of the protagonist howling into the abyss for the countless lives washed away by the tempest. The emotional turmoil of the song is bookended by audio samples of the tide rolling and out, that returns at the beginning of Water Divides The Tide. In this context, the otherwise peaceful sound of waves is turned into a haunting statement about the passage of time and natural forces, our powerlessness against them and their merciless indifference to us.
In conclusion, TELEPATHY have created an emotionally resonant, unbelievably powerful epic, one that should greatly speed their ascent to the forefront of post-metal.
Tempest is out now via Golden Antenna Records.
For more information on TELEPATHY like their official page on Facebook.