Pavallion‘s Stratospheria is beautifully executed progressive rock that may not all fit together perfectly, but its parts are splendorous.
Ah, Germany. Nice cars, beer, wurst… prog rock? Yeah, at least if Krefeld’s Pavallion has anything to do with it. True, you may not consider progressive rock a primary musical export of Germany (Rammstein and Scorpions seem to have that on lockdown), but with their new album, this four-piece aims to change that. What Stratospheria gives you is three different flavors of the same band across three tracks, all totaling into a 40-minute gentle prog rock opus.
Although I try to avoid going song by song in reviews, given this album’s small structure, it’s nearly unavoidable. I’ll make it worth your time, just like the record itself. Really, it’s quite a task to begin to break down a project like this, even though it’s small. The tracks all have unique structures and approaches, almost sounding like it was written by different bands, or at least the same one at very different times in their lifespan. There are common threads that keep Stratospheria from appearing haphazardly thrown together, and we’ll go over those in addition to the idiosyncrasies that can be found.
A lot of what can be found here reminds me of Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World from last year. Remember how good that album was? This flirts with that to me. Where that album has more stoner/classic doom tendencies, Pavallion have decided to go with a fuller progressive sound, colored in with some psychedelia and post-rock atmosphere. “Waves” is a phenomenal opening track in this regard. It’s just ten minutes of lush, airy guitar chords that give me chills. Vocals are soft and ethereal. It’s like listening to a dream located in a cloud, or embarking on a scenery tour at dawn to be awed by the beauty the earth holds. Much like how the science of erosion has sculpted beauteous works of natural art into this planet, so has Pavallion tweaked and carved their sound into well-honed majesty.
I’ve already talked about the second track, “Monolith”, quite a bit when we premiered it here on EIN, but to contextualize it within the album, it’s pretty different. The tone is more heavy and rough, but it doesn’t leave behind the light atmosphere established on the previous song, or continued in the following one. It retains its foreboding tone, which kind of pulls it out of the overall sound of the album for me, but it’s still a very nice track, almost like an interlude between the more fleshed out bits. The title track finishes the album off with a nearly 25-minute epic that has several diverse measurements. It’s progressive in the truest sense of the word, growing from a sparse post-rock-like affair to a lively and energetic flood of catchy riffs that drives the album home.
This record really is all about mood, but that shouldn’t dismiss the exceptional writing and performances here because – guess what – those are wonderful as well. It’s an indispensable companion to your life as you navigate your day-to-day routine, as much as it is a great musical piece to focus all attention on. If you’re the type of person that still likes to put on a robe, get a nice drink, and/or smoke a pipe while listening to music on a nice home system, you’ll find great company with Stratospheria. I myself spent a good amount of time listening to it while commuting to work and playing Forza Horizon 4. I must say it was a great companion to cutting through the autumn-dressed hillsides of Britain in fast cars.
I just want to bathe in this album. It has an inviting and warm nature that’s hard to beat, something I haven’t felt a whole lot of this year at least from progressive rock. Stratospheria is a great exercise in having equal amounts of style and substance, mixed with an ambition that’s better felt and heard than told. Perhaps more importantly, the band’s work here makes me want to go back to their previous efforts and explore more of their sound. Pavallion are great at what they do, and I hope they continue to do it for quite some time.