When Münster’s Long Distance Calling abandoned their instrumental post-rock roots in favour of adding vocals, the results were stellar (as were the guests, Peter Dolving, Jonas Renske and John Bush). 2013’s The Flood Inside – featuring Vincent Cavanagh – won critical praise without alienating fans, while the boldness of the move opened up a new audience. On Boundless, LDC have rolled the dice and decided to go instrumental once more.
Luckily for them, it seems that they’ve not forgotten the core of what made them a great instrumental group in the first place. Right off the bat, on Out There we’re treated to muscular riffs and soaring melodies, with a chaotic slide- guitar motif that’s as good as anything they’ve yet written. The band have said of this release that it represents them embracing their metal roots more than ever, and there’s certainly a lot of evidence of a darker, heavier approach.
On In The Clouds there are menacing metallic riffs that recall In Absentia-era Porcupine Tree or Someone Here Is Missing-era Pineapple Thief, while the climax of Weightless shows a different side: slow, powerful and percussive. Possibly most interesting are the Muse-like kinetic riffs in The Far Side, which segue into a middle-eight that’s nearly straight-up prog metal. The closer Skydivers is a post-metal track through-and-through, with nods to greats like Russian Circles while still being identifiably Long Distance Calling.
Even the tracks that adhere to a more familiar post-rock template are unexpectedly powerful and fresh, perhaps as a result of the entry of newer ideas. Chief among these is On The Verge, which builds layer after layer of guitar and piano motifs before finally letting loose at the midpoint of the track with a bombastic climax and then dying away. From there, it picks back up with a set of angular, call-and-response metal riffs and a cyclical piano figure that guide the track to a groove-driven breakdown section and then, just when a final crescendo seems in sight, an abrupt end. It’s the most dramatic example, but by no means the only time that expectations are radically subverted on Boundless. Nevertheless, the highlight of the album is probably Weightless, which parses as a simplified Oceansize, with a bit more Pink Floyd in the mix. There’s not a bad riff in there, and the track sways with the arrogance of a band that know they’ve penned something killer.
Radically reinventing yourself as a band is usually a once- in-a-career trick, but somehow Long Distance Calling have managed to pull it off for a second time. Hopefully their fanbase will come with them on this latest chapter.