In a thoroughly stunning return to form, German post-metal group LONG DISTANCE CALLING return with their incredible sixth studio album Boundless. Gone are the vocals of its immediate predecessors. In their place, listeners are treated to eight tracks of driven, expansive post-metal.
From the very opening of the first track, Janosch Rathmer’s hefty drumming pushes the pace forward, holding the guitars on a tight rein. Not a single note is wasted, nothing is superfluous, even on the longest track, opener Out There. Its nine-minute runtime may feel long in comparison to the five-six minutes of the other songs, especially given that its melody is somewhat mournful in places, but it’s never weighed down by needless ostentatiousness. A snarling bass hook from Jan Hoffmann comes in over the drumming, building to the dynamic interplaying guitars of David Jordan and Florian Füntmann which provide the melody. The sounds of a piano, threaded through the melodic lines, help evoke the image of looking out into the world, and truly seeing it for what it is: a far bigger place than we could ever know, but embracing its wild, untameable beauty. The use of synth elements, calling on Krautrock and space rock influences, also adds to this feeling: catch the flourish of synthetic strings at the end of The Far Side, or the cosmic, theremin-esque melodic line in the opening of On The Verge, which is then followed by krautrock-esque percussion.
The lack of vocals, combined with the expansive feelings that the album evokes, mark it as a bold return to form. The Flood Inside and Trips, this album’s immediate predecessors, both had vocals on from singer Petter Carlsen, but he is noticeable by his absence here. The fan response was divided, and while his vocals did work for the songs they were featured on, the use of vocals perhaps threatened to steer the band on a path they didn’t intend to take. It’s certainly true that Boundless doesn’t suffer for their absence: a song like Skydivers, with its driving riffs and pounding drums, would not have suited the use of vocals. That it wouldn’t sound remotely out of place on any of the first three albums also goes to prove how much of a return to form this album represents.
On a different note, it is tempting to look at the song titles, matched with the feelings evoked by the songs themselves, and work them into making Boundless a pseudo-concept album. It isn’t explicitly labelled as such, but it’s not an unreasonable conclusion to draw. The title of the album, the story about mountaineering in the Dolomites published on the band’s website by Benedikt van der Spaans, and the song titles like Out There, Ascending, Like A River, Weightless, etc., all indicate that even if it isn’t explicitly a concept album, it’s themed around pushing past one’s boundaries, out of one’s comfort zone, and embracing the challenges life puts in front of you. To paraphrase van der Spaans, sometimes you leap out of the plane and you fall up. In 2018, this is a message more people could do with listening to.
It’s certainly the case that Long Distance Calling have ‘fallen up’ here. Boundless, whether or not it has a central theme or concept, is a fantastic album, and a strong return to form. In a year that promises more of the turbulence of its predecessors, do yourself a favour: get a good set of speakers or headphones, turn them up, and let this album wash over you.
Boundless is set for release on February 2nd via InsideOut Music.
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