In 2015 a trio of Dallas teenagers calling themselves Glasir quietly unveiled Unborn, an EP that was stunning in its maturity and sheer power; despite their neophyte status, their work was lauded by post-minded publications. It was announced that Elusive Sound had signed the band, which implied an exciting future on the horizon. The band then went quiet for a time however, and as it goes, other releases caught our attention, new bands emerged to catch our collective eye, and the towering wave of time threatened to consume Glasir like it did other one-release wonders like Iceberg Theory and Signals to Vega – artists who gave us a single fantastic EP before fading into the ether. But on August 31st that potential fate was resolved when Elusive dropped New Dark Age – Glasir’s first full-length – with very little pageantry or hype; and drop it does, like hammers from the Norse mythology that the band derives its moniker from.
The wait will not have been in vain for listeners, particularly those post-rock fans who have been leaning more and more into doomgazing territories in recent years. In keeping with themes initially laid out in Unborn (and the band’s approach to the writing process in general), this is not a record for an impatient audience, but its rewards run deep. Not that anyone familiar with Unborn would have expected anything else, but it bears mentioning that this is not a “singles” album. If there is a criticism to be levied it’s that Glasir does little to bait a larger audience with New Dark Age, but those dedicated to this brand of music should be enthralled by the push-and-pull of slow-burning, foreboding menace and hard-fought, scarred beauty waiting to be found within the dark passageways of their painstakingly rendered compositions.
That being said, the lack of an easily digestible lead track plays into the album’s greatest strengths as well. If there is one thing to be said about Elusive Sound it’s that they know what they are looking for to represent their aesthetic, and there is a consistency running through their artists. Namely, it’s that almost-intangible quality that arises when a band doesn’t appear to have a clear-cut “lead” performer. Rather, every band on the Elusive roster seems to take a “whole is greater than the sum of the parts” approach, Glasir being no different. This is particularly impressive given the tender age of the band members; I recall being in a band and having friends in bands when I was twenty and there was always at least one “alpha,” but Glasir presents as much more of a cohesive collective. The bass and drums serve both the deliberate pacing and the crushing wall of sound, creating more than enough of a base to allow the guitars to complement the cacophony appropriately, whether it be as an overwhelming maelstrom or a pensive, patient melody. The ability to move seamlessly from delicate beauty to furious outpour is a hallmark quality that many bands work years to achieve, yet Glasir has seemingly never been without this skillset.
“Into The Sun” plays a similar role as “Precipice” does on Unborn – acting as an extended album-opening build-up; simplistic in terms of composition but heavy on mood and dramatic impetus. Unlike “Precipice,” which had some lighter, more hopeful hues lining its mercurial cloud, “Into the Sun” is jet black and unforgiving, setting a stark tone for the tracks to follow. Its ultra-deliberate pacing acts as a nice counterpoint to “Holy Chemistry,” which opens with one of the album’s more explosive passages, putting on full display Glasir’s clear ability to tear the walls down when they see fit. Of course, this rage is measured, calculated and left unchecked only long enough to lift listeners out of their seats before setting them back down for the album’s middle section, which plays mostly with quieter tones, restrained, building tensions and carefully planned bursts of hellfire. The track ordering feels very appropriate, leaving plenty of space between the initial seething of “Holy Chemistry” and the tempestuous first half of “Black Seas of Eternity,” the penultimate track which, at nearly twelve minutes, acts as the centerpiece of New Dark Age.
Roaring chords ring out alongside crashing cymbals and deliberate but fully powerhouse tom and snare strikes as “Black Seas of Eternity” digs its considerable talons into the listener’s brain. This is a huge song in every sense – length, sound, tone; if one was to choose a single track to encapsulate everything Glasir is capable of, this would be the one. It ties together everything that leads up to it, cements the dramatic swell that an album like this needs going into its climactic moments and also unfolds in a manner that evokes its title, transitioning easily from violent and turbulent to placid and soothing. “Hurt Us Again,” New Dark Age’s closing track, plays a necessary role after “Black Seas of Eternity,” offering respite after the storm. With the consistent lilting cadence of its beat and soothing strings, it’s about as close to hopeful as Glasir gets. It contributes a welcoming element to an album that plays most of its running time with a fairly grim tone.
It all amounts to another triumphant release for Elusive, a notoriously selective label that has crafted a trusted reputation for thoughtfully-composed, sonically superior records. Three years ago, Glasir was a band with a ton of potential but it could have gone in any number of directions. Given the right amount of time and support to really build their songwriting to the best of their ability, they have re-emerged with a substantial beast of a record. Considering their still incredibly young ages, they stand as a force to be reckoned with in the instrumental landscape for years to come.
New Dark Age is available now through Elusive Sound and can be purchased on the band’s Bandcamp page. Pre-Orders for vinyl copies of the record go live on October 26, 8PM CEST.