Review: Midas Fall – Wilderness [Album]

By ajcolores

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Combining elements of electronica, post-rock and alt-rock, Manchester-based quartet Midas Fall unveil their sophomore album Wilderness to expectant ears this month. It's an album that will prove as divisive as they come, with some seeing it as a heart-rending melancholic exploration of progressive rock, while others will probably struggle to take it seriously with such theatrical vocals on show.

The music would benefit from being an instrumental affair, in all honesty, with lead singer Elizabeth Heaton's vocals landing somewhere between Susan Boyle and Kate Bush. The instrumentation, on the other hand, trickles through your ears like aural honey, saturating you in a warm glow of arching guitar crescendos and subtle melodies. It's not that Heaton's singing is poor, far from it in fact. It's much more to do with the coherence of the record, which suffers because the wandering rhythms only work well when they aren't encumbered with the need for verses and choruses. Often the verses are difficult to differentiate, allowing the music to expand and flourish but making the void between vocals and instruments even clearer. Perhaps Midas Fall should have taken a cue from Glasgow's finest post-rock quintet Mogwai and kept the vocals as subdued as possible, complimenting the melody rather than trying to guide it.

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Midas Fall’s 2010 debut album, Eleven. Return and Revert, enjoyed critical acclaim internationally, and for much the same reason that Wilderness will be widely well received. The instrumentation recalls the chaotic precision of post-rock pioneers like Explosions in the Sky and Oceansize, but the vocals only bring to mind the now defunct Evanescence 'goth-opera' style that has thankfully dropped out of public favour (for the most part) in the past few years. Tracks like Our World Recedes and BPD incorporate elements of post-rock, pop, dub and metal to construct a collage of sounds, but these are buried beneath an overly dramatic bout of vocals courtesy of Heaton.

Despite the complaints, Wilderness comes off sounding pretty good for the most part. It actually feels like a snap-shot of a band in transition; still not quite at their fully realised glory, but nonetheless Midas Fall have staked a unique spot in the post-rock roster. Fight First stands out as an excellent insight into where Midas Fall are going as a band. It's erratic but concise structure gives the guitar room to experiment, and when it works it almost makes you forget what went before.

In fairness, one aspect that can not go recognised in Wilderness is the outstanding production levels, with the entire album being self-recorded, mixed and mastered from home on a minimal budget. This could easily pass for a professional recording, each instrument is not just afforded it's own space but is intelligently wound together with everything else. But for a record with these kind of lush harmonies, anything other than a quality recording would be a slap in the face, rendering the album much less valuable in the process.

So while not quite a sterling effort from the post-rock quartet, Midas Fall still have an accomplishment on their hands. For the music to stay with you, though, there needs to be less disparity between the instrumental majesty and Heaton's swelling vocal bursts. Until then, Wilderness should do more than appease old fans while still winning over a few newcomers. Anyone that's had their interest piqued would do well to wait until the band is on more solid footing.

Wilderness is out April 16th on Monotreme Records.

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