Artist: Long Distance Calling
Album Title: Boundless
Label: InsideOut Music
Date Of Release: 2 February 2018
The moment I realised I needed Long Distance Calling in my life was when I was standing as part of a rapt audience at Progpower Europe in 2011. On stage were four musicians that proceeded to beguile and transfix those around them with a forceful, compelling and energetic performance of instrumental post-rock/metal. I was sceptical before the show but by the end I was converted.
This conversion was underlined and cemented a little less than two years later when the Münster-based quartet released ‘The Flood Inside’. Featuring a vocalist for the first time within half of the songs, it presented something different for long-term fans to digest. But for a relative newcomer to the Germans who’d already been in existence for seven years by this point, it yielded significant results and thoroughly enamoured, I have been listening to it regularly ever since.
In 2016, ‘Trips’ was released and again, it featured a vocalist, albeit not the same one as before. Out went Martin ‘Masen’ Fischer to be replaced by Petter Carlsen, just to further flummox their fan base. However, in my review, I referred to ‘Trips’ as a ‘masterpiece’ and ‘the best of their career to date.’ This was not a conclusion arrived at lightly but instead, it was the result of Long Distance Calling’s ability to pen powerful, intense, melodic and intelligent music and then lace them with lyrics that made an emotional connection with me, particularly through the spoken-word sections.
Being an instrumental band at heart, it was perhaps unsurprising that Messrs Jan Hoffmann (bass), Dave Jordan (guitars), Janosch Rathmer (drummer), and Florian Füntmann (guitarist) would decide to return to a purely instrumental format one day and that day has arrived through album number six, ‘Boundless’.
Alongside the confirmation of their return to an instrumental approach came the description from the band to suggest that ‘Boundless’ was to be their ‘purest’ album to date as well as a return to their more metal roots. Therefore, despite a pang of disappointment at the news that there would be no deep and emotional lyrics this time around, I remained eager and excited to hear new material from this excellent band, knowing that they were unlikely to let me down.
This conviction was upheld when I heard the lead single and album opener a short time after. Entitled ‘Out There’, it a nine-minute track that showcases Long Distance Calling at their very best. It is a monster of a composition that delivers everything you could possibly want from this band. It begins with a bold drum beat that then ushers in a rumbling riff that’s built upon by the guitars to create real, tangible groove. The first expansive melody begins to shine through after about 90 seconds, giving the song a sudden epic and rich feel.
The individual performances are superb, with some great drum rolls and fills from Rathmer, bold and clever bass rhythms from Hoffmann, and some intriguing lead and rhythm guitar work from Füntmann and Jorden. The lead has a kind of metallic slide effect to it which is interesting and something that has grown on me, particularly when the piano comes in to enhance its effect. I also love the way that the song descends into almost ambient territory, as the banging and crashing of the post-rock clamour falls off the cliff face, only to eventually emerge on the other side, slowly and inexorably building to the now-familiar wall of climactic sound that is such a strong trademark of the Long Distance Calling sound.
The way in which the shorter, punchier ‘Ascending’ blossoms into more vibrant and euphoric climes from something much more edgy and angst-driven in the early stages is impressive, whilst ‘In The Clouds’ has a demonstrably darker, more ominous sheen to it, beginning with a subdued but slightly menacing intro that transforms into something much more muscular, with great riffs and even better bass playing alongside. Can I be the only one who hears a smidgen of mid-era Metallica in the riff? Probably.
Half-way through ‘The Other Side’ and out of nowhere we’re hit with some of the sweetest and heaviest guitar notes and riffs that I’ve heard from this band for quite some time, possibly ever. There’s a wonderfully obnoxious stomp to the closing stages of the song too, which I rather enjoy.
‘On The Verge’, on the other hand, is dominated by a beautiful piano melody that is built upon and around quite majestically. It starts of quietly and tentatively but increases in confidence as the song becomes more layered. There’s a gorgeously serene and eloquent guitar solo too that’s all-too-quickly replaced by a classic post-rock/metal wall of intensity and further slide-guitar leads before climaxing at the death in grandiose, cinematic fashion thanks to the injection of some interesting orchestration.
Closing number ‘Skydivers’ is aptly-titled and is a fitting conclusion to this record. It dives and swoops whilst pelting along at a rapid pace at times. The tension and intensity is never far away and the melody incorporated into the last hurrah is a thing of beauty before the album closes with an eerie and sombre minimalist soundscape.
‘Boundless’ is, without doubt a very fine record, the kind that can only be created by a group of talented musicians with finely-honed compositional skills. The pedigree of this band ensures that no-one will be surprised to hear this.
If I am being entirely honest however, I don’t have quite the same connection with ‘Boundless’ as I did with the previous two Long Distance Calling records. ‘Boundless’ is excellent, make no mistake about that. It delivers the kind of intelligent, multi-layered and multi-faceted music that we know Long Distance Calling can offer. And even in the medium of instrumental post-rock, it has the ability to tell a story and convey emotions. But frustratingly, there is something stopping me from fully falling under its spell in the same way as I did with ‘Trips’ in particular. Had they never introduced vocalists into their music, I’d probably feel very differently about ‘Boundless’. But as it is, I find myself begging for even the briefest spoken-word moment or spine-tingling lyric. Ultimately, I must conclude that as good as it certainly is, it isn’t quite their best.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.25
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse