Defy the Ocean’s publicity describes this EP as “expertly weaved layers of rock with atmospheric waves of melancholy”. There are elements in “Elderflower” of post-rock and progressive patterns but what Defy the Ocean seem to be adept at most of all is capturing moods.
The moods that Defy the Ocean capture are dreamy and gloomy, and sometimes harsh. “Elderflower” reminded me of “Shifting”, an album by the Italian progressive metal band At the Soundawn. Scenes transform, but what’s missing from “Elderflower” is any warmth. It all comes from a dark place, and if the intention was to be disturbing, they’ve achieved the objective. Those waves of sound, slow patterns and the sound elements interweave well, but “Veil”, “Elderflower” and “Brine” are all uncompromisingly distant and depressing. This is fine if you like this sort of thing. It’s as if any expanse costs extra. Of course Porcupine Tree and the like manage to turn sinister tones into beauty but it’s not happening here. Technically it’s fine and there are interesting sound elements but I just wish the overall mood was less downtrodden. The short piano piece “Poisoned” conveys mental images of a gloomy room where reflection is taking place on a tragedy, but it does at least lead into the more inspirational “Bones”, which for the first time introduces uplifting epic elements into the relentless gloom. That’s more like it, and it accentuates the effectiveness of the melancholic passages. A cello takes us out.
“Elderflower” is one of the most depressing works I’ve heard in a long time. I guess that means it must have had an impact on me, and would make an impression on others. Is an elderflower such a negative symbol? I didn’t think it was. There’s no need for it in my view. There’s plenty in the shapes and structures, which tells me that Defy the Ocean have much more to offer than this.
(6.5/10 Andrew Doherty)