Were there first two records “Nausicaa” and “Sunbirds” still easily genre-recognizable, this record is not. ECHOS is a huge step for the trio as they seemingly have found their own sound, their own musical identity. And all of it can also be related to the artwork of the record which shows a group of four nuns (maybe Dominicans?) standing with their back to the photographer on an observation platform looking out into the distance and likely into a valley as in the far-distant background you can see some other hills/mountains. The photo is very sharp and offers a good look upon the nuns, there is nothing old-fashioned here. Now this artwork (as reminiscent of another HANL record is) serves well as our starting point.
With ECHOS Slowly Building Weapons do not stand still, do not keep their point of view, no they have lifted themselves above their former work and now reach into the distance to come to new peaks and new observations about what they want to achieve. They do not care if we can follow their idea, they only take it all in for themselves. The somewhat threatening grey clouds above show that we are still not talking about happy golightly music but about music that has a meaning, that wants to tell us something.
The trio has let go of all their former anchors and is ready to get to a new point, that is for sure. They recorded the whole record in one room together – apart from Nick vocals which had been pre-recorded in Japan before they came together.
Every track on ECHOS could be taken as an example here, but I want to use “Disc of Shadows” for this review. It starts with a beautiful semi-acoustic bit of picking and then all of a sudden all the other elements kick in. Fast-paced blastbeats and stumbling drums accompany simple riffs and the vocals are the one element that takes you by the hand until the moment when this storm is slowing down – literally slowing down. The riff remains as strong but the drums step back and then the same picking sets in again to finish the song and to lead into the next track “Echo From Hill” which is much lighter and much simpler. What is really mesmerizing about this record is its flow, you never have the feeling as if there is anything here that is too much. All single parts flow into each other. The listener never asks himself where all of this comes from, or where all of this is headed. Here the passage and its emotional experience is the most important thing.
And that is maybe the best thing ever to say about any record – it is able to shut off your thinking. To bypass it and to allow you to wander along with all of this melodious, contemplative outlook. There will hardly be any record this year that can do so more easily (on the surface level easily) than ECHOS. Slowly Building Weapons have come to new heights with this record and just like the four nuns are experiencing a (probably) breathtaking view, the listener here is experiencing a “thought-taking” record that will speak to your heart and soul directly. Just like HANL. Are SBW their new equals? I think everything is possible for this trio.