Communic – “Where Echoes Gather” (AFM Records)
Founded during the early millennium years, Communic were definitely a name – not in least because they were one of the few Norwegian prog metal bands at the time! Going from strength to strength with regular charting releases and increased touring, including an appearance at 2005’s Rock Hard Festival, the band continued to be active on all fronts until the end of the decade. Thereafter, around 2013, things went quiet as founders Oddleif Stensland (vocals, guitar) and drummer Tor Atle Andersen started families of their own in succession, prompting a hiatus until now. However, during this period Stensland had been composing but soon began to wander back to his early songwriting archive, where hidden gems were still present and screaming to be brought back to life. Shelving all the new ideas, the 20 year old material was resurrected, re-worked and spruced up with modern ideas, inspiring the highly apt title along the way and winning the confidence of the band as something that longtime fans would definitely appreciate as most of it was composed even before the band’s debut? Well, these guys were right! The 10 tracks are hugely impressive being epic compositions of colossal proportions. The sound itself is titanic, being technical and resplendent with melody, yet so unbelievably heavy at the same time!!! Comparable to early Fates Warning with Stensland’s own vocals reminiscent of Warrel Dane (Sanctuary, Nevermore), the prog inspiration draws from Ayreon while there are definite heavy metal elements given the sheer wall of sound the band produce at times. Quite a combination and definitely a case of less techy, but definitely more heavy! Opening with ‘The Pulse of the Earth (Part 1 – The Magnetic Center)’ soaringly soulful layered vocals along with metallic clanging melodies conspire with double bass drums to create an incredibly blissful ambience while on ‘Where Echoes Gather (Part 2 – The Underground Swine)’ Stensland’s prog technical fretboard work is skillfully matched by Erik Mortensen’s rumbling bass runs in tune to somber harmonies pierced by angelic wailing – awesome! Increasing the speed and synchronous heaviness complete with staccato runs comes the ‘Black Flag Of Hate’ where heavy chopping riffs backed by precision double bass beats don’t dwindle in the atmosphere of the previous tracks but just add their own uniqueness to them. Best of all for me however was ‘Where History Lives’ with its twisting guitar and huge, pummeling drums producing a dirge of heaviness illuminated by the uplifting chorus and an absolute sunshine burst of Nordic melodies mid song – incredible! With bonus tracks of live in the studio versions of old songs ‘Watching It All Disappear’ and ‘At Dewy Prime’, along with a one off live acoustic version of ‘Waves Of Visual Decay’ recorded at the band’s 10 anniversary concert in 2015, “Where Echoes Gather” definitely bridges the 6 year time gap for this 5th release and going beyond that proudly shows Communic still capable of what they do best!