Kaelling’s “Lacuna” is a promising debut album filled with dark atmospheric prog. Throughout the album the band mixes melodic guitar lines and ambient synth with heavier sections and complex rhythms throughout. Hailing from Portugal, Kaelling fits comfortably in with much of the progressive rock coming out of Europe right now, featuring sensibilities which blend influences ranging from classic melodic progressive rock in the vein of Pink Floyd or Marillion to more modern heavier sounds.
The first two tracks, “Duality” and “Circle” provide a blueprint for the rest of the album. “Duality” starts with ambient sounds and synthesized choirs, and moves into a slow soft guitar build-up, where the somber yet clear vocals come in. Some bluesy guitar work comes in under the vocals creating a countermelody with the bass. As the song continues, it builds, but never quite crescendos, fading into “Circles.” As the second track builds to its chorus, we get our first taste of the band getting heavier. The chorus finally comes punctuated by a djent-y guitar attack. Throughout both songs, the bass and guitars weave layers of rhythm and melody, and the intensity ebbs and flows.
Lyrically, the album is a concept album with three acts “Empathy,” “Apathy,” and “Certainty.” It tells a story of two characters, one who feels too much empathy, and wants to be more numb, the other a sociopath who just wants to feel something. The lyrics are generally well written and do a good job walking the line between having a bigger story, without losing the standalone value of each song.
My only major gripe with the album was in the production. The guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals are all generally well mixed and recorded, but the drums are very lacking. The band doesn’t list a drummer in their materials, and the drums on the album sound thin and sampled. I don’t know if they were in fact sampled, but at points the thin drum sound presents a stark contrast to the emotive guitar and synth arrangements. I honestly didn’t notice the issues with the drums on my first listen when I was more focused on the guitars, vocals, and the interplay between them, but it became very noticeable, particularly in the cymbals, on subsequent listens.
“Lacuna” is a very strong debut album. Its specific blend of ideas holds a lot of appeal for me, as someone who grew up on a mix of compositionally rich and complex progressive music that was often emotionally lacking, and emotionally complex alternative music that was almost always lacking in terms of composition and complexity. Like many of the big bands in progressive music today, Kaelling fits nicely into the space between the two – adding a layer of richness and complexity on top of the aesthetic of alternative music.
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