Few post-metal records this year have as much emotion or wordless storytelling within as The Greatest Burden, the third album from Denver trio Ghosts of Glaciers. At four songs and over forty minutes, there are plenty of opportunities for The Greatest Burden to become a burden to listen to, but Ghosts of Glaciers offer so much variance that it never feels longer than it should be.
The Greatest Burden is bookended by the album’s two longest songs, “Primordial Waters” and “Return to Entropy,” which set the tone for the rest of the album, quickly introducing the listener to the soft/heavy dynamic that fuels the record. Guitarist Steven Jackson puts a heavy emphasis on melody, making the songs feel incredibly full without the presence of a vocalist.
“Return to Entropy” concludes The Greatest Burden in epic fashion, each member of the band getting mathy before segueing into a massive seven-minute finale. Jackson and drummer Ben Brandhorst spoke with Decibel about the four songs on The Greatest Burden, which you can stream in full below and pre-order via Translation Loss before its release on September 27.
“We took our time to make sure each song felt right,” Brandhorst tells Decibel. “There are tonal shifts, rising and falling and similar themes throughout this record. In general, the metal influence takes us to darker places, but there’s always room for light. Without lyrics, we knew we wanted to write songs that made us feel something while playing them: angry, frustrated, distraught, triumphant, lonely, exhausted, radiant and everything in between. It’s an album about cycles. My hope is that the experiences we had while writing and performing these four songs translates to the listener. Music is a shared experience, even when listening alone. It’s good to get the heavies out, together. ”
Jackson: “Primordial Waters” is the first track and starts off the album with all of the elements that we feature on the album. This also emulates the “primordial soup” billions of years ago that contained the elements necessary for advanced life forms to develop.
Jackson: “Abyssal Declivity” is the next track being that sudden drop into the abyss which the name suggests. This song is a little different and more aggressive in a way than most of the album and that drop into the unknown fits it nicely. There are things in the depths of our oceans that have never been seen or explored. There could be anything down there including massive primitive creatures (similar to the carcass on the album cover) that still reign.
Jackson: Track 3, “Epigenesis”, is where the second half of the album starts on side 2 of the record. In a way it also mimics the term it is named after (similar the other songs on this album). When life springs forth from a seed, it starts off slowly and then surges forth with more intensity as things change and develop. The different movements in this song can almost follow the different stages a life can go through whether that is a plant or an organism.
“Return to Entropy”
Jackson: The final track on the album, “Return to Entropy,” is where the elements found within all lifeforms and throughout the universe itself are “returned” and recycled into the cosmos. Like the ouroboros depicted on the back cover, this song is where the album comes full circle. The mycelium network on the insert included with the record is also an example of the way life constantly grows and decays back into the earth and creates ecosystems around these processes. This is the way fungal networks thrive and it is also the way life springs forth around a decaying carcass in the wild. The album’s front cover shows this process as well with a massive creature decaying at the bottom of the ocean and the ecosystems that can form around the remnants of a life form coming to an end.