Review – Fires in the Distance – Air Not Meant for Us

Back in the early 90s when a bunch of kids in the affluent Swedish town of Gothenburg decided to mix the American and local death metal of the period with the melodic twin guitar stylings of Iron Maiden and power metal, few people could have predicted how massive the style would become in the metal genre as a whole. However, over the last few decades the style pioneered by the likes of At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity and In Flames has become one of the, if not the, dominant sounds in heavy music, inspiring everything from American Metalcore to acts from further afield like Israel’s Orphaned Land and Taiwan’s Cthonic. 

Connecticut’s Fires in the Distance are both an example of how far this particular sub-genre has travelled, and perhaps some of melodeath’s (I hate calling it that as well) brightest stars, proving the continuing vitality of the music. When the band released their debut Echoes in the Deep November back in 2020, they laid out their stall as purveyors of high-quality melodic death metal, with more than a little bit of My Dying Bride-style doom death thrown in for good measure. Their sophomore effort, Air Not Meant for Us, looks set to propel the band into the genre’s big leagues.

Opening track ‘Harbinger’ feels like a calling card for the band, a song that packs in everything the band excel at. Huge riffs and Kristian Grimaldi’s impassioned screams sit perfectly alongside ethereal piano passages and soaring melodies. Multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Yegor Savonin has used this album to explore some deeply personal subjects, and the music manages to convey an emotional heft that you don’t always get in metal. ‘Wisdom in the Falling Leaves’ has touches of Midians-era Cradle of Filth about it with its sense of doomed romanticism, while ‘Crumbling Pillars of a Tranquil Mind’ delves into heavier territory with the verse sounding like something from Morbid Angel, before a soaring chorus kicks in. The instrumental ‘Adrift Beneath the Listless Waves’ is a brilliant showcase for the band’s skill, not in a techy, showy way, but by simply giving them the space to stretch out melodically. ‘Psalm of the Merciless’ is a bludgeoning highlight, boasting perhaps the best chorus on the album, and with more than a little bit of goth rock influence in the vocal. Final track, ‘Idiopathic Despair’ feels like the band tipping their hat to their primary influences, sounding as it does like the best Dark Tranquillity song they never wrote.

Air Not Meant for Us is an exceptional album, not because it’s breaking new ground but because the sheer quality of the song writing elevates a very familiar music style to the point where it feels genuinely fresh and exciting. Fires in the Distance have proven themselves to be a heavy metal band of note, and if you’re a fan of the genre at all you’d do well to give this a listen.

Air Not Meant for Us is out now via Prosthetic Records and can be ordered here.

Words: Dan Cadwallader

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