Sometimes, a shadow hangs heavy over a record; a spirit, haunting every note, whispering in your ear, taking hold of your thoughts. Often, this is a bad thing; a solid enough record rendered less enjoyable because it makes you think of another, better band. And, for sure, the shade of Opeth looms large over The Wandering Daughter, the new album from prog-death band Piah Mater. But rather than taking anything away from the album, the comparison helps make clear just what an achievement The Wandering Daughter is, as this is a style of music many have attempted, but few have done so well, and this can stand right up to the best of those Swedish titans.
To be clear, the Opeth comparison is in relation to that band’s earlier works – the days when they were a progressive metal band, rather than a prog-rock band. There is a similar sense of scope and ambition, with soulful clean vocals and harmonies sitting alongside guttural death metal growls, and gentle guitars morphing into hard-hitting riffs in ways that feel natural and flowing. Given that the six songs on The Wandering Daughter are, on the whole, rather long – with the half of them breaking the ten-minute barrier, and two more each being over seven minutes long – it gives Piah Mater plenty of time to nurture their songs and sense of exploration, following whatever avenue feels right and proper. It makes The Wandering Daughter an aptly titled album – this is an album for losing yourself within, letting the music carry you away as it weaves it tales.
And it truly is an album that’s easy to lose yourself within. The songs shift and twist, flowing like a stream, carving their own path and going where they will. Each one feels like a small epic, telling some tale of vast importance; which is something of a double-edged sword. It does mean that The Wandering Daughter has a lot to offer, both musically and emotionally; but it can be a lot to take in, and by the end of the album, it can be hard not to feel slightly exhausted. This feeling is lessened with repeat listens, as you begin to anticipate the twists and turns of the music, but it does mean that early listens ask a lot of the listener.
Yet it’s an investment worth making. The Wandering Daughter may impress on early listens simply due to the ambition of the songs and talent on display, but the true strengths of Piah Mater become clearer with repeat listens. This makes The Wandering Daughter an album that requires the listener to meet it at least part-way; but, if you are willing to do so, then treasures await. And sure, the Opeth comparison may be impossible to avoid, but The Wandering Daughter is so confident and captivating that it never feels as if it’s in the shadow of that well-regarded band.
The Wandering Daughter is due for release on 5 October 2018, and can be pre-ordered on CD via the Aural Music Webstore.