“Elements” is the debut mini-album from Eschar, a four-piece instrumental rock outfit from Guildford in the United Kingdom. Released in April of this year, it’s the culmination of over two years of work that have seen the band evolve from a three-piece desperately searching for a vocalist to a composed and highly proficient act who have fully embraced the power of the instrumental-only approach. Their meticulous approach and the level of thought that goes into their music is readily apparent from the fact that the band cut half an album’s worth of older material from ‘Elements’ because they felt it wasn’t up to par with the fruits of more recent songwriting endeavours.
Eschar fall somewhere in the middle of the blurred spectrum between post-rock and its heavier cousin, post-metal. The highly technical drumming and heavily distorted guitars mark the band out from the crowd of Explosions in the Sky-a-likes but they hold back from the leaden, bludgeoning assault of bands like Pelican or Cult of Luna. Instead, they occupy the same space as Russian Circles, blending carefully layered melodies and guitar harmonies over complex, often crushing, rhythm work.
Dynamics and contrast are where Eschar excel and nowhere is this more apparent that on ‘Singularity’, “Elements” third track and, for me, standout moment. The tightly syncopated burst of guitar, bass and drums around the 2.05 mark is simply scintillating, a dizzying flurry of sonic pyrotechnics. ‘Terra Firma’’s soaring crescendo and crashing climax are the hallmark of a band who fully comprehend the raw power of a purely instrumental approach and are only too ready to deploy it to create soundscapes rich with tension and urgency. Immediacy is the order of the day.
Unfortunately, the quality of production doesn’t quite match up to the level of craft displayed in Eschar’s songwriting. The recording feels too compressed as a whole, and individual instruments aren’t given enough room to breathe. While the sense of claustrophobia adds to the intensity on faster sections, too often the bass is submerged by the low end of the rhythm guitar and there’s just not enough space for the leads and melodies to really shine through. It’s a real shame because buried in there is overwhelmingly powerful and atmospheric record that’s unfortunately somewhat emasculated by poor mixing.
“Elements” is unmistakeably the opening volley from a young and hungry band. What it lacks in finesse, it more than makes up for in urgency and raw potential and promises great things from Eschar in the future. With a little refinement and more careful attention in the studio, there seems to be no reason why Eschar’s second effort can’t further improve on what’s already an impressive debut.