In consideration of reviewing this album, the Lady and I had to do some serious thinking. Even though we do get fanboyish/girlish over certain artist, we do like to retain objectivity here at Lady Obscure. Considering that the Lady spent a week as tour manager for the gents from Tellus including two live acoustic shows, a one and a half hour long radio interview, and an inspired effort to forever re-define the phrase “partying like rock stars”, I figured her objectivity was officially toast when it came to Tellus Requiem, so the task fell to me. When they were having all this fun, I was on the other side of the planet, doing my usual thing at work, listening to whatever I was reviewing at the time interspersed with some perennial favorites. I have given their debut album a few spins, and enjoyed it thoroughly, so remaining an un-biased reviewer of Invictus wouldn’t be an issue for me. With that disclaimer out of the way, let me start this review off by saying that this album kicks some serious ass.
The Norwegian gents of Tellus first formed in 2007, and released their self titled debut in 2010. The band at the time of recording consisted of Ben Rodgers on vocals, Stig Nergard on guitar, Ivar Hagen Boe on bass, Anders Sunboe on keyboards, and Espen Hektoen on drums, a position presently held by Vidar Lehmann. The name Tellus Requiem, according to their Facebook, means “earth’s dying mass”, Google gave me “Earth’s rest”, my mind kept telling me to stop analyzing shit and crank it up.
Musically, these guys are brutal in every way. The talent runs deep here, and on all fronts, as is shown in a fierce manner on the opening instrumental track, Ab Aeterno. In a quick two minutes plus, we are served notice that a long thrashing of the ears is in store for us. The power chords are fast and relentless, our hearts racing to keep pace with the relentless drums. Here also, the thematic elements of the album are introduced via female choir vocals in Latin, and really, nothing says “biblical proportions” like female choir vocals in Latin. In their own words, the general theme of their writing is about worlds falling apart, and they aren’t real subtle about it either. From this intense instrumental they go right into the first single released from the album, Red Horizon, a catchy and a fairly straightforward tune that really settles the listener into metal mode. No surprises here, it’s a predictable and very well played song of the professed biblical ending, be it asteroid, volcano, or personal heartbreak, the Red Horizon lyrics can be applied to all. The “worlds falling apart” doesn’t have to be apocalyptic in nature; anyone who has experienced the decimation of love knows this very well.
Now that they got us all warmed up and cozy with the instrumental and a rocking tune, they kick it up in a monstrous fashion that is almost unfair. Eden Burns, the second track, throws all the predictable elements out the window, we are quickly at the song’s mercy. Musically and lyrically, this one is an ass kicker through and through, and it should be, thematically, this is the last stop on the line, the end, the eleventh hour as the album title dictates. If we take the Red Horizon as the asteroid hitting us, Eden Burns is where we stand watching our loved ones die and our homeland burn to the ground. If we take it on a more personal level, this is the point where we doubt everything we know of ourselves and the world around us; that moment of uncertainty where everything we held sacred, love, hope, trust, slowly disintegrates around us. Both scenarios have a bottom, and Eden Burns is it.
To me, this album is a process, tear something down as much as possible, and then slowly take stock of it for the rebuilding. The next track, Reflections Remain, is still in a hard fought battle with a later track for my favorite. I really don’t see that battle ending any time soon either, guess I’m just going to have to keep spinning both. And since this is a concept album, I can’t really skip any of the tracks in between. Goddamn I love prog music. Reflections Remain has all the elements I personally love in music in general. The soft yet powerful opening, the scaling up and down of intensity, and the peak moments that bands will spend minutes in a song building up to, those release moments are what I thrive on in music. The theme of the album is shown so well here to in a surrealistic spoken word moment, “The broken world, trembles by your touch, daylight flickers when you scream in solitude.” No matter what the calamity is, this is the moment where we are afraid to do anything, where fear has pushed us into that ultimate submission of inactivity.
Running through the gamut of destruction, the band brings us many faces of those bottom moments, and they rock it hard throughout. All the members of the band shine so brightly though, Rodgers vocals are a perfect power sound. Where many vocalists can get lost in such intense music, he stays dynamic and in sync with the intensity level. The guitars just damn man, many times I was begging for mercy, but like a dog’s rag toy, they just kept thrashing me around. The bass is up front and aggressive, the drums are brutally competent, never flashing out of sight, but always within the rest of the music, just perfect. One thing that really made me take notice though was how they let the keyboards stand up front more than most other bands do, it really added an extra layer of intensity to the overall product. One moment where their precision sound really shined, aside from all the other insanely awesome instrumentals, is the middle instrumental section of Sounds of Gold, a staccato segment that only works with perfect precision and timing. This is reflected throughout most of the rest of the album also, God bless them. Even in the power ballad moment of the album, Tranquility, they carry this, not an easy chore in a song with more of a mellow tone to it. Tranquility is also the turning point thematically of the album, the one part where some real hope is shown through, but it’s not a “let’s hold hands it’s gonna be alright” kind of hope, but a more applicable, realistic hope in these moments of despair. That point where we take a solid understanding of where things are, and start to move on.
Earlier I was talking about Reflections Remain being one of the two tracks that were battling for my favorite, the eighth track Redemption is the other. Nergard stated in a conversation that it almost didn’t make it to the album. Man am I glad they stuck through on this one, it is a perfect pitch right into my prog metal wheelhouse. Once again, they took chances with their musical stylings, and nailed it, this song just blew me away on the first listen. They go from there into the title track, a fierce and forward piece, almost a battle cry to be honest; there is no real happy ending to all the destruction they wrought throughout the album though, more a sense of acceptance and resolution. I guess they leave it up to us to find the happy ending, and I’d prefer to write my own anyways to be honest.
Any sense of predictability from Tellus ended with Red Horizon. From there throughout the rest of the album, they jump all over the place in a fantastic fashion. They take chances, they push accepted musical barriers, and they succeed. I can confidently say that my ears and mind won’t be getting bored of this album anytime soon. Tellus brings it with authority and confidence, barely missing any strokes. Any fine tuning done on their style between Invictus and the next album would only be cosmetic or thematic(I think they’ve destroyed the world enough in this one for a career’s worth), musically they are as solid as any prog metal outfit out there. Now if they could just bring that acoustic set to California……