Evolve or die.

Any rock band who’s had more than one successful album knows this. But the choice paralysis of just how many directions you could go often proves the death-kneel for many metalheads. Elder, when presented with this quandary, simply said “oh we’ll do all of it.”

From their early days of slab-like doom metal, there was always a mischievous quality to their music, just waiting to burst into flight. From album to album they indulged in bigger and surprisingly beautiful passages, making connections from Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath to Dvořák and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. And once they perfected the formula, they presented “The Falling Veil” unto the world. So listen to our interview with Elder front man Nick DiSalvo, read our thoughts on “The Falling Veil” and hear why it’s one of the best of the 10s.

I realized everything I’d been doing in my life meant nothing to me. Because when I wasn’t working I was holed up in my room, writing music.
— Nick DiSalvo

“The Falling Veil”

I always wondered what Cormac McCarthy rewriting Conan would sound like. For any other band, that might be a stretch on the brutish, nerdy pantheon. The mythology of hard rock and metal has been intertwined with fantasy and westerns from its genesis. Earth’s evolution from drone lords to Talk Talk recast as metalheads has plenty to due with Blood Meridian, Metallica’s opening theme is “The Ecstasy of Gold” and—well—there’s Conan, the band. 

And Elder, from the monolithic name down, have tapped into that lore brilliantly. Especially on their album Lore and the sprawling, ever morphing Reflections of a Floating World. It was fascinating to see them fully evolve from their days as a doom band into a hallucinatory and thrilling mix of heavy psych and progressive rock. Still heavier than any metal band on this plain, but with a wondrous dexterity that drove them to craft truly progressive music, segments colliding and mutating. It was like seeing a man on a high-wire, always tugging at the edges of failure, but, with grace and a bit of flair, pulling off the impossible.

And “The Falling Veil” turned out to be their centerpiece, not just on Reflections of a Floating World, but in their discography. In fact, put another qualifier here, it’s hard to think of another rocks song that matched it for ambition, high-octane thrills and crushing elegance this decade. An 11-minute monster of a track, “The Falling Veil” placed an impossible bar up into the stratosphere for rockers looking to find the delicate balance of brutal and beautiful. On paper you could cut it down into about six or seven segments, but that would detract from how effortlessly each one flows into the next. It’s not until the heart stopping conclusion that you realize just how far you’ve gone. From the desolate, trembling intro that sets the stage to a thrashing, hardcore break down to fluttering guitar duets, it’s as though Elder wanted to run through every trick they have up their sleeves in one song. 

That long intro is nearly a taunt, stretching out the tension to a near unbearable tenor before bursting into a dueling guitar lead and Nick DiSalvo’s propulsive vocal performance, urging his bandmates on. By the time the scenery shifts again, we’re in the midst of a rushing squwal of guitars of the “Voodoo Chile” school of thought. But “The Falling Veil”’s core comes from a melding of impossibly pretty and impossibly bruising. The sound cuts out, leaving only a mellotron and guitar, singing like a chorus of strings as a low bass hums below it, soon to usher in another thrashing section with the full band playing even louder than before. The electronic equivalent would be a drop, but this is more of an elevation. And despite their pumbling tendencies, that’s what Elder, and “The Falling Veil” do better than any other rock band. Through their bruising sound they take flight.