As a reviewer, and a music fan in general, it’s nice to be caught by surprise. I saw Long Distance Calling, a post-metal outfit hailing from Münster, Germany, as a support act a number of years ago. At the time they were a mostly instrumental band, and for me they lacked a certain something. I gave their debut album a listen, but felt little desire to pursue their music.
Unbeknownst to me until recently, their music has developed quite a bit in the intervening period, and they added a full-time vocalist in the form of Martin Fischer for their fourth album, 2013’s The Flood Inside. Fischer departed in 2015 for personal reasons, and so for their latest album Long Distance Calling have called on the vocal talents of Norwegian musician and previous collaborator Petter Carlsen.
In the greatest of post-metal traditions, TRIPS presents music that is deceptively simple, yet varied, delicate, heavy (at times), and above all carefully-crafted. As with their last couple of releases, around half the songs are instrumental while the rest are vocally-driven. This provides the much-needed variety that was missing from their earliest output, and on TRIPS the balance is fine-tuned almost to perfection. Discovering this album has been a genuine pleasure.
While there is a consistent and cohesive feel to the album, the styles and moods are diverse and dynamic. It is at times reflective, at others angry and at others again more upbeat. The album’s theme is an exploration of time, and the lyrics deal with all manner of images from their past: loss, regret, sentiment. It’s moving, convincing stuff.
The album starts with Getaway, a callback to the 1980s with its steady drum beat and simple synth sounds. It’s a pleasant introduction, though it reveals little about what is to come. This is followed by Reconnect, and here the energy kicks in. The song is powerful and engaging, and Petter Carlsen makes an immediate impact, his sweet but powerful voice slotting nicely into the band’s groove.
Rewind is more delicate, a melancholy and beautiful song where Carlsen is really in his element. Little sounds and glitches add to the atmosphere to create something very elegant and eerie that still has punch in its big final chorus. After that respite comes Trauma which, as the title might suggest, is darker and heavier. Intense riffing sits within ambient sounds to create something quite visceral.
Lines brings the energy up another level. It is fast and frantic, with fantastic hooks and a catchy chorus, one of the real standout tracks. A brief respite in the middle even gives a chance for a classy guitar solo. There is a short post-rock interlude in the form of Presence, which takes us into Momentum. The song’s steady pulse and simplistic style harkens back to the opening track. It is classic post-metal, a simple yet enjoyable riff-driven track.
Plans is another standout track and possibly the highlight of the album, a mini epic with a huge sound and a tremendous musical and lyrical journey over its 6 minutes. The mellow moodiness of the first half is perfectly balanced by the intensity of the second. This is a must-hear for any fan of progressive music.
The album finishes with Flux, a 12-minute post-rock instrumental. It perhaps doesn’t warrant its runtime, particularly with such a concise and well-paced set of songs preceding it, but it contains lots of great stuff and a top notch build up. It also allows some rare moments where the band strips right back to just the rhythm section, allowing the bass and drums a chance to shine.
TRIPS is a strong, accomplished album. The music is varied and interesting, the production (courtesy of Vincent Sorg) is slick, and solid performances complement the styles and moods that the album explores. Long Distance Calling enter the big leagues with this release; now it’s time for me to delve into everything I’ve missed over the last few years.