One of the biggest aspects that separates good from great instrumental music is the ability to do one of two things. Either you need to be able to communicate without words (a la the best post-rock), or you need to take listeners on an adventure/journey (see: Scale the Summit). New upstarts Eschar is, by and large, adeptly able to take listeners on a pretty freaking fun adventure with Nova. One look at the album cover should give you an idea of where this adventure is. Without resorting to overrun space rock templates, Eschar takes you on a prog-fueled trip through space, much like Scale the Summit feels like the musical equivalent to an extreme hiking expedition.
What works for the band is how well it skirts genre lines. Nova trails in post-rock and progressive metal, so that fans of Maybeshewill, Cloudkicker, and even Between the Buried and Me can feel at home. The band never feels especially heavy, although the distorted riffs and leads hit harder than you’d expect. That’s not to say that the songwriting isn’t as smooth as butter; that’s one of the band’s biggest talents, that the quiet and the noisy feel intertwined in a way that doesn’t feel haphazard or unnecessary. Each part flows by well, giving the album room to breathe, which is suiting for the spacey atmosphere. The album is exceptionally serene and wonderfully heavy, like a well-balanced beer that understands hops and smoothness.
If there’s a minor qualm to levy on Eschar it’s that the album isn’t particularly memorable or variable, which is to say it’s tough to know where you are at in the album in any given listen. That’s a general complaint toward any instrumental album, but given the spacey sonic palate, it’s a tad more noticeable on Nova. Also, saying the album isn’t memorable doesn’t mean it’s not impressive and enjoyable. In fact, I hope to hear Nova in its entirety live because these songs have more personality than can be limited to a studio recording; they beg to be heard in the fullness of a basement bar with an ale in hand (I recommend the Great Lakes’ Spacewalker.). Plus, this is the first we’ve heard from Eschar.Nova is an album crackling with potential, so you could say the sky’s the limit for the band. (Nicholas Senior)