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Album Reviews : Absent Hearts – The Peak and the Valley

By on October 20, 2020

The palette is pretty broad here on Metal Obsession. Some might complain that an album like this doesn’t really belong on a metal website, but to hell with attitudes like that, I say. Modern metalheads can generally be a pretty open-minded lot, it’s usually the very noisy, whiny minority that howl about such things.

Plus, this record has some solid heavy music cred behind it. Instrumental post-rock falls into the broader ‘heavy music’ catch-all, and Absent Hearts in the brainchild of a member of one of Australia’s most beloved heavy music acts, Perth’s irresistible Voyager. Guitarist Scott Kay established the project, wrote everything, played guitar and bass, and only had assistance with the drums (which I’m happy to say are live and not programmed) and mixing/mastering duties.

Musically, don’t be expecting anything even resembling the fun, synth and riff-driven heavy bombast of Voyager. The Peak and the Valley navigates far different musical terrain. Think a slightly more gentle and ambient version of Sydney’s sleepmakeswaves.

That said, the album certainly rocks out when the mood takes it.

In fact, ‘The Peak and the Valley’ is a very apt name for this record. It takes the listener on an ebbing and flowing, light and shade-charged journey across dark, moody but simultaneously uplifting soundscapes. The emotional ups and downs you experience across its length are pronounced but never jarring, the sound alternatively swelling like a soothing but subtly powerful tide and then pulling back to moments of dreamy ambience, and the overall effect is truly compelling.

Kay’s skills on the strings and compositional nous really come to the fore here, and the choice of guitar and bass sounds and vibes he employs are expansive and highly appropriate for the tone he is setting with Absent Hearts’ music. His lead work is soaring, soulful and stylish and his atmospheric tones are awash with mood and colour.

Key tracks would have to be Forgiver, which builds slowly but surely from a mellow opening to one of the biggest, boldest and catchiest lead guitar lines you will hear this year, before returning to sweet and simple ambience, and epic closer The Wave. It is arguably the album’s biggest, ‘heaviest’ moment, although it still sends shivers up and down your spine with its eerie ambient sequence across its middle section. The melodies flowing from The Town are ear-pleasingly engaging too, and it’s probably the album’s catchiest moment.

There is not a weak track or even a weak moment on this record however, it is wall to wall quality. And at eight tracks and a tad under 40 minutes, it’s tasteful and never outlives its welcome.

This one has come out of left field, and will unquestionably be vying for a five position in this year’s albums of the year count for this humble writer. If you dig on the likes of the aforementioned sleepmakeswaves, or Meniscus, Jakob, Dumbsaint and so on, you will find plenty to love here.

Band: Absent Hearts
Album: The Peak and the Valley
Year: 2020
Genre: Post-Rock
Label: Independent
Origin: Australia


Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine,, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.