“Uncompromisingly melancholic – but there’s light amid the despair when Elizabeth Heaton sounds positively lovestruck”: Midas Fall’s Cold Wave Divide Us

Self-described “miserable prog” soundscapists return after six years with beefed-up but still brooding fifth album

Midas Fall - Cold Waves Divide Us
(Image: © Monotreme)

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In an era when Spotify divides the world into more than 6,000 genres, all bets are off when trying to narrow down music to specific spheres of influence and identifiable sonic signifiers. So when Midas Fall describe themselves as “alt/post-rock” while they present their fifth album, it could pretty much mean anything.

And while their widescreen rock visions retain the impressionistic instrumental impact that characterised previous releases, they’ve reinforced their sound – which not so long ago they half-jokingly called “miserable prog” – on this first release for six years, and cranked up the vocal melodrama.

The results see them verge on symphonic metal redolent of Nightwish or Within Temptation as much as previous comparisons pointed to Mogwai and Sigur Rós.

The addition of multi-instrumentalist Michael Hamilton to the founding duo of vocalist Elizabeth Heaton and guitarist Rowan Burn has added heft to the sound, and the electronic pulses of 2018’s Evaporate are less in evidence, replaced by slow-built but increasingly monolithic noise sculptures over which Heaton emotes more stridently than ever.

It’s an irresistible formula on In The Morning We’ll Be Someone Else and Little Wooden Boxes, in which Heaton’s yearning meditations gather momentum and sweep the listener up in the emotional swell, while subtle stripes of orchestral accompaniment further sharpen the picture.

It’s not always such a linear journey from quiet to loud, however. Mute draws the listener in with a conspiratorial semi-whispered vocal, while the stuttering drums on I Am Wrong crank up the emotional uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the crackling sonic jetsam that opens Point Of Diminishing Return bursts into passages of muscular synth rock reinforced by pummelling bass drums that hint at a right turn into more metallic territory. But then an increasing swell of sculpted noise suggests this is a band that will always feel most at home within the high walls of shoegaze. 

Heaton’s imploring voice imbues Monster with a sense of desperation, her tones cracking and shuddering, while icicles of guitar drip from the roof of another cavernous sonic chamber.

The mood, for the most part, is uncompromisingly melancholic, but there is light amid the despair – most noticeably when In This Avalanche sees Heaton sounding positively lovestruck as she sings of ‘lying next to you’ and taking comfort from the fact that ‘It’s the weight of the world but I know I’m with you.’

So not quite “miserable prog” throughout, then. But whichever way the mood swings, it’s rarely less than all-embracing.

Cold Waves Divide Us in on sale now via Monotreme.

Johnny Sharp

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock