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Monday, February 14, 2011

CD Review: Long Distance Calling - s/t

Long Distance Calling - s/t
2011 Superball Music
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Germany has always been one of the core hubs of music that gets less attention than it should. Mozart, hello? Beethoven, Wagner, Bach, Webern? Everyone from Kraftwerk, Destruction, KMFDM, Rammstein, Warlock, Kreator, Accept and the Scorpions have left indelible imprints upon the rock world in their own styles. As far as expressionistic metal goes, Germany has The Ocean and Long Distance Calling representing the subgenre with the same deep threat as their world-class bobsled teams.

It may seem contradictory to label Long Distance Calling as Pelican-meets-prog rock, but that's probably the best way to prepare listeners not yet familiar with this group. These instrumental explorists have been more about captivation than blunt force, the latter being more The Ocean's forte. Similiar to Scale the Summit, Long Distance Calling re-interprets vintage Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, King Crimson and Spock's Beard for the Tool generation. Unlike Scale the Summit, Long Distance Calling dials up longer compositions and sometimes drops their keys. They frequently labor and prod for their soundspace, while Scale the Summit is more about establishing a groove and decorating it.

2007's Satellite Bay was a commanding debut for Long Distance Calling and it comes highly recommended. Not that the group was trying to compete with Isis--who would soon be calling it quits a few years later--but there was a logic to bringing up Long Distance Calling's name as compatriots of style. Satellite Bay was one room of atmospherics after another and Long Distance Calling made a compelling statement to be taken seriously as metal artisans.

2008's Avoid the Light sort of came and went without fanfare, though it had the trump card of having Katatonia's Jonas Renske dealing vocals on "The Nearing Grave." For a band of Long Distance Calling's talent, the album surely did avoid the limelight, which may have prompted the reasoning behind the self-titling job of their newest work.

Long Distance Calling is a connector album between its predecessors, an appeasement to Satellite Bay on the first couple and final tracks and then a branching out to more elaborate pastures. The sway and gusts of the opening number "Into the Black Wide Open" bring Long Distance Calling's primary identity back into view and it's a stunner. Wavy, methodic and alluring, "Into the Black Wide Open" steps on the amps as precursor to the final stanza and goes berserk before calming things back into its initial reverie. Champion work here.

You're not really expecting the uptempo jive of "The Figrin D'an Boogie," but it stamps in the vein of ELP's "Fanfare For the Common Man" and Pink Floyd's "One of These Days," albeit with its own groove. It's Deep Purple and Floyd given a modern canvas and "The Figrin D'an Boogie" is pretty damned awesome.

As Long Distance Calling appears to be settled with its acknowledgements to Satellite Bay by the time "Invisible Giants" rumbles through, stand prepared for new goodies out of the trick bag to include fusion jazz sprinkles (ala the first half of "Timebends") and straightforward classic rock modes. While LCD has stated they are less about Rush when writing their music, it's sublminally planted the framework of "Invisible Giants" and rockier parts of "Timebends." No shame in it, since Long Distance Calling is hardly out to duplicate "2112." Tool is the glue for Long Distance Calling, and you'll hear them chugged out to delight on "Arecibo (Long Distance Calling)."

The big heralding moment of Long Distance Calling, however, is the appearance of Armored Saint/Anthrax vocalist John Bush on the punchy rocker "Middleville." LCD has stated Alice in Chains left a big influence upon their work, and "Middleville" is the proof positive. If AIC had been more intent on elaboration, then "Middleville" is precisely the song they would've come up with. For Long Distance Calling's purposes, they happen to have the vocal graces of a metal legend in their midst. Bush does get the point of "Middleville" and he delivers a solid Layne Staley wallowing on the choruses while keeping his own gravelly mark on the dime on the verses. LCD waits for three-fourths of "Middleville" to paintbrush and drop note-heavy solos, but keeps the song moving on its prime directive, which is to show this band can rawk it up when they see the opportunity.

The whispery and frequently pretty closer "Beyond the Void" is the figurative merging of Satellite Bay and Avoid the Light. It sculpts and molds in transition to a mixture of boom and wah, leaving an organic splash to its shimmering translucence. "Beyond the Void" is the perfect extensive outro to a demonstrative album proving this band's worth as a premiere art metal band.

KMFDM once asked, What do you know, Deutschland? The answer, using Long Distance Calling and The Ocean as a gauge is, a hell of a lot.

Rating: ****1/2


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