If someone tells you rock bands with ambition for anything else beyond survival are relics of the past, Elsewhere provides conclusive proof otherwise. The band’s new album Life… is a Fraction sets out for dimly remembered territory in recent pop music history as Michael Aroian, the band’s singer, guitarist, and songwriter champions a concept album for a 2022 audience. It’s a resounding success on every level.
Accomplishing that with what can only be described as an “odd” plot makes it even more impressive. The conceptual portion of Elsewhere’s new album, ten songs in all, covers the story of a protagonist who unknowingly discovers the Fractional Theory of Incremental Time Perception and the experiences coming from that. If it sounds like it is terribly far removed from anything that should be heard on a rock album, don’t fret.
It is built in such a way that it’s surprisingly accessible. Elsewhere breaks it down into ten “chapters” (songs) and the opener “Restless” is among their best. Aroian, drummer Adam Soucy, and bassist Kevin Swaluk give the song a modern sheen, but the essence of “Restless” is hard rock fundamentals. There’s cleverness in the song’s composition, however, that sets it apart. Aroian, however, has a raucous guitar sound that longtime lovers of the genre will enjoy. Fusing it with an overall melodic approach makes for an excellent opener.
Relentless and hypnotic riffing drives the third track “In Search of the Unknown”, but there are several standout elements. The addition of female voices into the mix at this juncture is a good move and Elsewhere likewise incorporates electronic instruments into the music without upsetting its balance. It’s around this point that many listeners may begin experiencing the feeling that Elsewhere has upped their game in a major way for this new album.
“Rolling On” solidifies that feeling. Aroian’s guitar work has earned notice before as the straw stirring Elsewhere drink, but his playing has arguably taken on a new intensity with this work. “Rolling On” does just that and leaves little in its wake, but it’s wildly entertaining, that’s for certain, and Elsewhere are more than capable of generating the necessary musical pyrotechnics to snare listeners with its sound. “Diagnosis” has that same high energy level defining the album’s songs. It’s an airier arrangement, however, not as riff-dependent, and also provides the vocals plenty of room to breathe.
The concept album’s penultimate track, “Interlude: Transformation”, is a studio confection, without a doubt. Pulling this off live will require skill and a bit of good fortune. It is an essential piece of the album and its storyline, however, as it provides an all-important bridge into the work’s closer. “Finale: The End of Everything” doesn’t have quite the apocalyptic weight of the song’s title but comes close. Aroian unleashes several scintillating guitar passages and drummer Adam Soucy arguably his best performance on the release. It’s hard to say if Elsewhere will get the opportunity to perform the piece in its entirety, but let’s hope so because it does signal a transformative moment for the band as well. It reeks of ambition, yes, but they pull it off.