Corelia - New Wilderness review

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Band: Corelia
Album: New Wilderness
Release date: May 2020

01. Rift
02. Esper Voyage
03. Self-Destruct
04. New Wilderness
05. Strife
06. Bastion
07. Facade
08. Bewilderedness
09. Up For Air
10. Archaic Revival
11. For What We Love
12. Thoughtcrime
13. Stellar
14. Spiraling
15. Blight Of Imagination
16. Amaranthine

2020 truly is the year of drama and surprises.

After the threat of World War III, Australia on fire and a global pandemic, 2020 will certainly go down as one of the more memorable years (should we all live to remember it). At a far less significant level, but comparably shocking to the prog-metal world, the debut full-length album of Corelia has actually been released. For the many of you that are unfamiliar with the band, Corelia were stylistically part of the progressive metalcore/djent scene popularized by the likes of Periphery and Monuments, with Periphery's Spencer Sotelo guesting on their 2012 debut EP Nostalgia. In 2015, the band launched an Indiegogo campaign to crowdfund their first full-length record, promising a double-disc album with over 90 minutes of music that had already been written. After raising over £27,000, more than double their target total, they went to record the album and... disappeared. There were some messages early on, but soon enough all communication stopped, and with no album in sight, many assumed the band had taken the money and run, with no album ever coming. That seemed to be the case until, long after anyone but the most die-hard fan had given up hope, something happened.

In April, a new account on Facebook claimed to be an ex-member of Corelia in possession of the album, who would upload it in the imminent future. It turned out this individual was not a member of the band but an unaffiliated producer trolling the band; nevertheless, his post disturbed Corelia's slumber, and after years of radio silence, the band released a statement, claiming that the album's production had been held up by mental health issues and one member of the band taking the individual instrument tracks and refusing to share them. They promised to release what was available of the album in its unfinished form for free, as well as try to return as much of the money from the Indiegogo campaign to investors as possible. Whether this latter promise will be fulfilled remains to be seen, but in mid-May, unmastered versions of the 90-minute double album, entitled New Wilderness were posted on Soundcloud by the band. Whilst by no means as bad as it could have been, the mixes weren't ideal. However, to give an impression of the level of fervour their initial EP Nostalgia has inspired in prog-metal fans (well, those that hadn't turned their backs on the band forever after the Indiegogo fiasco), in less than a day, Corelia fans had first paid an AI to remix the album and then taken stabs at mastering tracks themselves, whilst the producer that ignited this activity has offered his services to the band pro bono. I haven't delved into the fan attempts, but the AI version is a notable improvement upon the original tracks, and brings the production on New Wilderness to a level equivalent to finished releases by most other bands. With that lengthy history lesson out the way, we can now evaluate the album as it has been shared with the public. It's likely that with the divisions in the band, New Wilderness will be the first and last full-length from Corelia, and it serves very much as a case of "what might have been".

The version of New Wilderness shared by Corelia is described as a demo, but despite the rough edges and incomplete arrangements, in terms of length, songwriting and (now) production, it's fair to consider it a full release, and listening to it in 2020, one has to wonder what level of success it could have propelled Corelia to with the upward momentum they had at the time had it been recorded on schedule and released in 2016. The musical prowess of the band displayed on Nostalgia is confirmed, from the technically impressive and inventive guitar work to the soaring vocals of Ryan Devlin, and the compositions are similarly impressive. There is some djent here, but for the most part this is modern prog/math metal, with complex rhythms, winding songs, elaborate guitar leads and patches of metalcore crunch; the vocals are mostly clean, but go harsh when the band ups the intensity, such as during the djent-y chugs and deathcore-esque breakdowns on the likes of "Facade" and "Archaic Revival". Two discs and 16 songs allows a good level of variation in approach, from the thinner sound and somewhat indie sensibilities of "Up For Air" to the labyrinthine double header of 10-minute epics that close the record, and most of what's found in both the short and long songs makes for good listening.

"Rift" serves as something of an extended introduction, bringing the volume in segments but mostly operating at a more muted level, and "Esper Voyage" takes a while to let loose, but when you have 90 minutes to use up, you can afford to not rush things. These opening minutes are mainly carried by Devlin's impassioned vocals; his high-pitched tone won't appeal to everyone, but I find him a convincing frontman. After doing the lion's share of the work during the first half of the song, the rest of the band provides Devlin with some support, with frantically ascending/descending guitar and keyboard leads and more substantial riffing, at least for a short time. There is something of a lack of urgency in these opening tracks, and ultimately New Wilderness is a victim of excess; Corelia could have probably managed to lose a few of the tracks here without detracting from the record, and it's possible the mountain of work the band committed themselves to when writing this record contributed to the problems that prevented its completion. Whatever caused the deterioration during the recording process, it's a shame that highlights on this album have been hidden for so long. "New Wilderness" features some of the standout guitar work on the album along with some stirring vocal melodies, "Bastion" has become an early favourite amongst fans for its multifaceted composition and rousing climaxes, and although the longest song on Nostalgia barely passed 6 minutes, the band demonstrate an ability to sustain interest with longer songs on "Spiraling" and "Blight Of Imagination".

For the most part, New Wilderness sounds like an album that was at least 95% complete, with only refinement required. However, there are parts where it sounds like tracks weren't completed. For example, keyboards are far more prominent here than on Nostalgia, and although for the most part they feel intentionally included, in some places they sound like stand-ins for what would have been guitar solos. Whether this is the case for the retro-prog keyboard solo on "Stellar" I don't know, but it does add an interesting dynamic to this track. There's also the odd quirk that dates the recording of the album or moment of irony to be found. I wonder whether the Alex Jones diatribe at the end of "Thoughtcrime" would have been included if the album was recorded in 2019-20 instead of 2015-16, and the "they just wanna see you fail" sentiments on "Self-Destruct" stick out like a sore thumb given all that happened in the failed production of the record.

For most people that contributed to the funding of New Wilderness, this incomplete release is a case of "too little, too late", particularly considering the band had to be provoked into taking these recent steps. However, much like Fear Inoculum, there's an extra level of intrigue when listening to an album that suffered a troubled production, and as someone who only found Corelia after most supporters had already given up hope, I just find it amazing to find that there actually was a near-finished record underneath what appeared to just be a scam, and what's more, a pretty good one at that. This may be the final music anyone hears from Corelia (it's not a promising sign if a mission-critical member is unreachable), meaning that New Wilderness may ultimately act as much as a representation of what could have been as it does an album in its own right.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 5


Written on 17.05.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 3   Visited by: 71 users
17.05.2020 - 00:23
That was indeed the most dramatic backstory to an album I read lately
Father: How can a picture of a field be sad without a sad person looking sad in the field?
Young Woman: That's an interesting problem. Yeah, I struggle with that.
17.05.2020 - 10:08
High Fist Prog
I was never really invested in this band, but that debut EP was definitely promising. Quite curious to hear this for myself after all that shenanigans. Nice one
17.05.2020 - 14:32
Written by LeKiwi on 17.05.2020 at 10:08

I was never really invested in this band, but that debut EP was definitely promising. Quite curious to hear this for myself after all that shenanigans. Nice one

Yeah, I like the EP (although primarily for 2 songs), but I've not been particularly fussed one way or another about this album coming out - I've been more intrigued by the drama surrounding it. It's somewhat in the same ballpark as the previous one but I'd say it's quite a bit more complex overall

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