January 23, 2016

Latitudes - Old Sunlight

Written by Sean Golyer.

Artwork by Thomas Neulinger

Latitudes is a band that has largely (and criminally) flown under the radar amongst metalheads for far too long. Even I admit to this guilt having only discovered them in late 2013, but I've never looked back since. Old Sunlight sees them quite possibly at their best, so now is as good of a time as any to get on board. If you're already familiar with their past material, you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect here: a marriage of progressive, black, and sludgey riffage in a mostly instrumental presentation that defies genre classification. Not much has changed in this regard, nor should it, and is instead a refinement of all the best parts of their last two albums into something more engaging.

Their production has always been excellent since their debut, and the mix on display this time around is no exception. Layers upon layers of guitar weave a wealth of many timbres: crunchy, thick, meaty, saturated, and dissonant, all interchanged throughout for a dynamic listening experience from moment to moment. The drums are warm, boomy, and all-encompassing across the stereo field, keyboards are used to great thematic effect and never come across as corny or unwarranted. The bass mix is my only personal complaint. I know it’s there, I can feel it, but I have a tough time hearing or distinguishing it. It could be that the guitars a bit more down-tuned and sludge-y than past albums, thus eating up space normally occupied by the bass, or that they’ve toned back on the edge/distortion they’ve used on the bass in past recordings. Either way, it’s not quite as present and aggressive like it was on such tracks as “Myth Cathexis” or “Dreamland Precipice”. Regardless, this album still gives my sub a run for its money.

The masters I heard did tend to lean towards a more “compressed” Dynamic Range score (roughly DR 7 on most tracks), but I never really felt this was hurting the master in a way that was detrimental to my listening experience. At worst, the drums do tend to feel a bit “buried” and tame and could use some more headroom for its transients to breath, but this could just as well be the result of a guitar-dominant mix. There’s really great pacing in the songwriting to break up the heavy and soft moments which alleviate any concerns over ear fatigue. Overall, I personally felt it was a fairly pleasurable album to listen to.

As mentioned earlier, this is a mostly instrumental affair much like their past work. This can understandably lose some listeners’ interest without that driving, human element. Arguably their best songs are the ones they do actually utilize their vocalist, something that also happened to ring true in the past. I really do find myself wishing they’d be more willing to utilize vocals more often. Regardless, I can say with confidence that the musicianship and songwriting is at its tightest and most engaging since their inception. Every song is a journey all its own, waiting for you to explore every little nook and cranny along the way. There’s rarely a dull moment and they never really stumble into the classic prog-metal pitfall of being technically proficient while devoid of life and soul. There are plenty of moments to soak in the atmosphere and emotion, allowing you to feel the breadth of the sonic picture they’re creating between the all melodic chaos.

Ultimately, this is a solid third effort from Latitudes that’s more than worth your time. I may have focused on some of my personal nitpicks, but that should not be interpreted as me not enjoying this album. Rather, they’ve set a high bar for themselves up until this point, so I expect great things from them. Old Sunlight more than satisfies my thirst for more material from them, and generally emphasizes all of their most interesting and catchy elements into a densely-packed, 45-minute experience.

Recommended for fans of: Cult of Luna, Krallice, (old) Mastodon

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Audio Disclosure

-Promotional 320kbps mp3’s were used in the making of this review
-MP3’s were converted to .WAV files to come up with DR scores

Referenced on:
-Sennheiser HD600 headphones through Digidesign Mbox 2 headphone pres + AD/DA
-Klipsch Promedia 2.1 speakers

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