To say that Montreal has become a hotbed of heavy music is laughably understating the point. Thanks, in part, to the yearly Heavy MTL festival, the home of the Habs and so much more has become a breeding ground for the talented torch bearers of the future. Collin McGee may, in fact, be one of those denizens of metal's future. His brainchild, Elderoth, has, since birth in 2007, begun crafting an interesting and altogether unique take on melodic metal. With influences ranging from Dream Theater to Cththonic, McGee and his bandmates have infused the archetypical progressive power metal sound with Asian strings and melodies in ways that make the world of sense on paper. With a few spoonfuls of sugar and spice, Mystic became the second full length album, and follow to 2012's self titled affair. But the road less traveled is also, typically, a bumpy one.
The East Asian influences are felt early and often, with tracks like Within overflowing with the unique mix of strings and traditional heavy elements. That juxtaposition of ancient and modern becomes the underlying theme of the album, permeating every track from start to finish. Black And Blue has what could be classified as a superficial beauty, pouring melody from every inch of space. McGee's vocals here find a home atop a heaping helping of proto-djent riffs, mixed with power prog solo work. The mix does, at times, feel overcrowded, particularly in the verse sections on This Shadow By My Side. A tinge of electronics might be the odd man out, adding little to the overall sound of the track, while muscling out some of the more intricate guitar work. Even the solo is clouded by a throbbing beat. It begins to point to an identity crisis, or at best, an attempt to be too many things at the same time. That desire prematurely ends budding sections, like the light piano in My Future, and brings in a flurry of elements that do little more than overflow the structure.
Whether it's Falling Star or In A Dream, there are glaringly bright spots. The aforementioned East Asian instrumentation is refreshing when allowed to breathe on its own. Conversely, the vocal lines lack depth of sound or lyrical content. They are at odds with one another, with too many layers of music and not nearly enough meat on the bone of the vocals. Perhaps The Ocean is the most fitting example of the central problems of the album. The sweeping melodies that dominate the track are well conceived and well executed. But with each subsequent layer, be it vocals or electronics, it is diluted down. The wailing interval of the song is airy and well balanced, only to be cast aside for a reprise of the main theme. Even the uptempo Far In The Sea has moments of brilliance, mainly housed in the middle third of the song. It stops tripping over itself, and delivers a solid, if minimalist by comparison, performance of beautifully written melodic metal. It leads directly into the best track on the album, which is, not coincidentally, a four minute instrumental.
Always Remember is the proof of concept that McGee should look to in further works, stripping down the layers and returning to a delicate balance of power and technical proficiency. Somewhere along the way, the overall arc of the album became convoluted and strained. At it's brightest points, Mystic is well orchestrated power metal, with progressive thinking added to each and every song. But those spots are too few and too far between. Instead, they are buried in the rubble of layer after layer, sound after sound, leaving the listeners to dissect and pull apart each and every track to find the tiny bits if purity left beneath. Elderoth is a project with a high ceiling, an unlimited and perhaps untapped potential to be something more. But to be more, McGee and company might have to focus on doing less.
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