The debut album by Fires In The Distance is something of a happy accident; the first song written for what eventually formed the band wasn’t written for them at all. Initially written by Yegor (guitars/keys), Kyle (drums) and Craig (bass/vocals) for their main band Archaic Decapitator they soon realised the music just didn’t fit and they needed to do it justice. Bringing in guitarist/vocalist Kristian Grimaldi, they formed Fires In The Distance to give the songs the room they needed to grow. Initially intended to be a studio-only project, they were very quickly snapped up by Prosthetic Records to release their debut album Echoes From Deep November.
From the outset it’s clear this is a different animal to their “day” band - it’s a progressive death/doom record that leans heavily into melodeath, using melody to channel the emotions stirred throughout. Echoes Of Deep November is a body of work that eschews riffing for vast emotional soundscapes, crafting thoughtful and engaging scenes.
Opening with a stirring keyboard motif, ‘The Climb’ slowly builds, brick by brick, not introducing Kristian’s clearly-enunciated roar until we’re already a minute and a half in. The vocals are deep and resonant, retaining intelligibility all the way through. Rather than being brutal for the sake of brutality, this comes across as a considered choice that was made to achieve the darker, melancholic tone of the record. The opening motif recurs throughout the song, giving a clear touchstone but when it does come back alone, the yearning guitar lead following it is all the more impactful before it breaks into a tasteful solo that foregoes shredding for the sake of it.
This sense of thoughtfulness and craft is evident all the way through; it’s not an album that sets out to wallow in its own darkness or be heavy merely for the sake of it. The melancholy and wistful tone Fires In The Distance employ is ultimately a human one, seeking to understand its darkness to find a way out rather than simply be consumed by it. The key arrangements are the best feature of the album; they’re tasteful, accenting the right passages whilst also being their own distinct entity, used to enhance the emotional impact rather than swamp the album in overdriven synth. They bring an eerie, almost cyberpunk or future noir aesthetic that, while at odds somewhat with the rest of the album, totally works and only makes it a more rewarding listening experience.
That’s not to say the album isn’t without flaw; while the production is expansive and gives room to breathe, it only has two settings - full throttle with all instruments going, and quiet, with perhaps only the keys. This is quite jarring and the album would benefit greatly from a higher dynamic range instead of packing everything in at once.
Echoes From Deep November likes its songs long, but the album itself is a very reasonable forty minutes and consists of only six songs, with the first five sitting around the seven to eight minute mark. Only closer ‘Sundial’ bucks this trend, at a hair over three minutes but it’s also an instrumental closer. It really makes those three minutes count though; the melodies are huge, particularly the initial lead and the keys midway through that lend a real sci-fi cyberpunk vibe that wouldn’t be out of place in a Shadowrun or Deus Ex game, in the best way possible. Fires In The Distance manage to condense everything great about the record into these three minutes minus Kristian’s cavernous growl, but it doesn’t miss that at all.
It’s a strong opening statement from a band that was only supposed to be a studio project borne from tracks unsuitable for a main band, channelling the gloom of Paradise Lost and the raw emotional heft of Insomnium into an easily digestible package that rewards repeat listens to truly unpack its depth.
Fires In The Distance - Echoes From Deep November is released September 18 via Prosthetic Records