Fires in the Distance – Air Not Meant for Us (Prosthetic Records)Monday, 1st May 2023
When potential is realized, it’s a darn warm feeling. Last year saw a number of bands break through the ice – An Abstract Illusion being the most notable to these ears. Majesties, Hypno5e, Foretoken, Sól án varma, Decipher, Aara, and Sermon are very recent examples of taking a sound to a new level of creativity, amongst many others this year. That theme brings us to Fires in the Distance. The Connecticut quartet hit the scene with a solid first release in Echoes from Deep November; a debut made up of complexly layered melodic death metal songs in the vein of Be’lakor, while also adding a taste of Swallow the Sun inspired melancholic doom. A pleasing entrance, while also being a little rough around the edges. With three years of experience under their belt, the band is ready to unleash their sophomore effort Air Not Meant for Us.
Upon the first playthrough, it was plainly evident that Fires in the Distance have learned plenty. While Echoes from Deep November occasionally had songs that wandered off the path in select important moments, that is not so with Air Not Meant for Us. The general length of songs hasn’t changed, but what has is the tightness and lavish flow that each track contains. Displayed is a band who has definitely grown, showcasing maturity within their songwriting that makes an enormous difference.
As such, opener “Harbingers” lures the listener with raindrops and brooding keyboards, before branching out to include melodic lead guitar work along rhythmic riffs/drum lines that form a meaty core. Harshness and melancholy are binded in exquisite balance, with enough crunch to satisfy the need for measured brutality, complimented by emotive sequences fleshing proceedings out. Gloomy keyboard arrangements are a major element of Fires in the Distance’s sound profile, and they’re used with great effectiveness. Especially when interwoven deep in the mix to accentuate slick guitar harmonies like those on “Wisdom of Falling Leaves.” The mentioned pensive stylings of melodic doom is exemplified in the punchy and memorable “Crumbling Pillars of a Tranquil Mind,” providing infectious riffage layered with dreamlike moments that fit beautifully without feeling unnatural or forced.
If the melodic death side of the band is a favorite, “Adrift, Beneath the Listless Waves” and “Psalm of the Merciless” have you in mind with delicately weaved leads dripping with melody, while not forgetting the signature moody keyboards. The combined vocal duties via bassist Craig Breitsprecher and guitarist Kristian Grimaldi deliver start to finish, with the two aforementioned songs being highlights of their work. Closing entry “Idiopathic Despair” begins in an uptempo manner, with Insomnium-esque mournful melodies before transforming into a lush keyboard solo overlapped by spoken word samples, before launching more addicting guitar harmonies and a plethora of imaginative riffs. Of great importance to the success of this LP is the mix being rightly balanced, with the consistent inclusion of keyboards not becoming overbearing, along with every other instrument being precisely executed and balanced out.
With this album, Fires in the Distance has evolved into the special act we knew they could become. The band have evolved and refined their songwriting chops, addressing every area that needed tweaking, all while sharpening their strong points into an unstoppable force. Air Not Meant for Us is a soulful, emotionally tinged tapestry of purposeful music painstakingly crafted with care and top tier musicianship. This masterwork will be in the rotation for the foreseeable future, and is destined to be a candidate for many end of year lists. One can only imagine where they will go next.