Elsewhere’s concept album release Life… is a Fraction pushes them to a higher level than before on naked ambition alone. It is been obvious for some time that Michael Aroian, Marc Ubaldino, and Craig Morrison are interested in far more than 3-6 minute modern rock power trio workouts but the new collection seals the deal. They say the album form is dead, perhaps, but someone forgot to tell these Boston rockers and even the sci-fi or fantasy trappings of the song cycle aren’t enough to dilute its immediacy.
“Restless” suggests that primary songwriter Michael Aroian is near or at his creative peak. The guitarist attacks his six-string instrument with a passion that even longtime Elsewhere fans haven’t yet heard. Many of the songs on this album are practically crackling with energy and “In Search of the Unknown” has a fiery trajectory. These never sound like paint by numbers compositions but, instead, segue from one track to the next like one overall responsive piece of music with different movements.
There are recurring musical motifs and lines in the piece; Aroian has obviously labored over the construction of this opus without dimming its spark. Much of the responsibility for that is due to the clear fact that the band began the recording process for these ten songs with a goal in mind that remained well-defined. One may quibble with Elsewhere’s method of telling the story, but there’s no doubt that it holds together.
The second half of the album packs a harder punch than the first. “Rolling On” and “It’s Happening Now” are two of Life… is a Fraction’s hardest rockers, especially the second one, and the developing storyline and music alike gathers intensity as it nears its conclusion. The vocal effects present in virtually every line of the album may seem a bit ill-advised for some and a much more natural approach may be due. The alternative point of view, however, is that it comports with the presence of keyboards and synths.
The synthesis of electronic-driven passages mixed with the band’s traditional focus on guitar/bass/drums peaks with songs like “Diagnosis” and its computerized introduction. It sets an immediate tone. Elsewhere has no difficulty, as well, blending these seemingly disparate textures into a coherent whole. Few listeners, if any, will hear any lapses on the album and everything hangs together.
The final track in the concept album Life… is a Fraction, “Finale: The End of Everything”, is a propulsive closing statement befitting what’s come before. It is telling of the band’s songwriting and playing talents, however, that they never go too far with this climatic moment – not even in the massed vocals, the outsized choruses, and so forth. They strike the right note for this closing number. Elsewhere add a couple of standalone singles at the album’s end as well. These are worthwhile tracks, especially “Call You Out”, and don’t upset the overall balance of the release. Life… is a Fraction is Elsewhere’s finest moment yet and possibly transformative for this Boston band.