Sometime around 2011, we are told, guitarist and composer Charlie Eron burned a CD with a couple of demo tracks on it and handed it to vocalist Max Phelps (Exist, Death To All, Defeated Sanity, ex-Cynic) and bassist Alex Weber (Exist, Defeated Sanity) at a metal show in Frederick, Maryland. They apparently thought it was pretty cool, and things evolved from there. We are further told that many song iterations, revisions, and years later, the concept that “time is starkly linear and unrecoverable” came to Charlie Eron while working at a desk job “staring vacantly into a computer screen”. And thus, WAIT was born — rounded out by the participation of drummer extraordinaire Anup Sastry (Jeff Loomis, ex-Intervals, ex-Monuments, ex-Skyharbor).
Actually, all the members of WAIT are extraordinary at what they do, and their first release as a progressive death metal unit — the three-track EP We Are In Transit — is, in a word, a marvel. And we present the chance for you to hear it in advance of its July 12 release by The Artisan Era.
All three tracks are complex, intricately plotted compositions, with many moving parts, all of which are integrated like precision-crafted gears that seamingly spin apart but are always locked together, even if the full design may not be immediately apparent. They can be mentally discombobulating at times, like a giant kaleidoscope that presents your mind’s eye with one riotous pattern of sound after another, created with eye-popping technical aplomb. But just as often, the songs grip (like a vice) the part of the brain that produces primal, reflexive physical movement. And perhaps above all else, their exuberance exhibits a highly contagious feeling of sheer joy — the feeling of people who are tremendously good at what they do, given free rein to show what they can do, yet united in their mission.
The opening track, “Wonder“, is exceedingly well-named, because that’s what it is. This particular kaleidoscope of sound may be the most kaleidoscopic of the three, managing to intertwine in mercurial fashion the frenetic lunacy of an asylum, shaded in the gloom of long shadows, with beasts running wild on the premises. And it also practices a kind of sorcerous seduction.
Weird, dissonant arpeggios, prominent warbling bass tones, and thumping/cracking drums provide the launching point, joined by scorching harsh vocals mixed with clean singing that ranges from moody and subdued to wonderfully wild. Ultra-potent rhythms undergird shrieking, swirling guitars and a glittering solo that ripples and shines above those gut-punching drives. The fretwork also produces sparkling, chime-like ringing, and in one transfixing passage the sounds of a clarinet or a tenor sax, both soulful and incandescent (Jonathan Epley provides a guest guitar solo on “Wonder”, and maybe this is him). At the end, all this extravagance is replaced with dreamy ambience and eerie reverberations — and even more chilling crocodilian growls.
“Mushroom Song” is perhaps less complex, at least at first. It seems more like an extravagant melee, in which a massive, spine-shaking rhythmic current plays a starring role, featuring riveting bass and guitar interplay, along with searing vocal hysteria. As the song becomes more intricate and disorienting, clean vocals again share time with throat-shredding tirades, seamlessly transitioning from one to the other, creating contrasts and disturbances. About three-quarters of the way through, those heavyweight rhythms disappear, leaving the field open for the cycling of a playful, darting guitar motif and then something like the sounds of electronic avians twittering over a backing ambient shimmer.
Last of the three, “Tomorrow Awaits” immediately teleports us into a mysterious future dimension, but just as quickly launches another, cranium-cracking, spleen-rupturing, vibrantly surging rhythmic tour de force, spliced with crazed fretwork and another interplay between slow, dreamlike clean vocals and tortured shrieking. The tempo and rhythms change (as you know they will by now), but never lose their head-hooking power, while the guitar layers continually reveal shining cosmic vistas — until Charlie Eron takes flight in a spectacular solo, which in turn leads into another bout of bone-breaking rhythms. After another futuristic ambient interlude, WAIT deliver a grand finale that’s… simply grand (as well as head-spinning).
And the record seems to end too soon — because it’s difficult to leave this musical fantasy land. Fortunately, it proves to be just as electrifying, bewildering, and brutalizing on subsequent listens. It’s a classic example of a record that gives the listener new discoveries with each new spin.
The album was produced with power, and the kind of even mix that allows all the participants to shine (which is especially nice when you want to focus separately on what each of them are doing after you’ve become immersed in what they’re all doing together the first time through). Credit to Anup Sastry for recording, mixing, and mastering We Are In Transit.
We can’t finish without also taking a deep bow of appreciation to Will Shanklin for his wonderful cover art. And we provide these words of welcome from guitarist Charlie Eron:
“To sit on this music for so long has been the greatest test of my patience. I am thrilled to finally be able to share it with everyone, and to properly introduce WAIT to the metal community.”