Eternal Elysium, Searching Low and High: Found at Last


To be sure, if you’re looking to start a collection of underrated and ripe-for-broader-appreciation riffage, there are probably few better ways to kick off than with Eternal Elysium. The long-running Nagoya-based outfit trace their stoner rocking Sabbathian loyalties back more than 20 years at this point, and they have a discography chock full of memorable songs that have gone rampantly undervalued in their time. Accordingly, one can only applaud the efforts of Ukrainian imprint Robustfellow Productions in giving due homage to Eternal Elysium‘s 2005 fourth album, Searching Low and High, which from the initial boogie of “Reefer Happiness” through the Hendrixian strut of “Twilight High” and into the depths of 16-minute jammer finale “Green Song” makes just about a perfect lead release for what’s been dubbed the Robust Relics Series.

Given new cover art by Yura “xNinja” Nagorniy and a complete 2017 remix and remaster courtesy of Eternal Elysium founding guitarist/vocalist Yukito Okazaki, the new version of Searching Low and High is comprised of 10 songs and runs a suitably robust 73 minutes thanks in part to the inclusion of two bonus tracks, “Eternal Elysium” (13:53) and “The Spiral Conclusion” (6:59), but even without these, it’s a substantial work of heavy rock idolatry, digging into the roots of the style and focusing less on nuance of presentation than quality of songcraft. That’s not a tradeoff you’re ever going to hear me complain about, and indeed, the band works it to their advantage even for a weirdo interlude like “Approaching Stranger on the Electric Trail of Dreams,” efficiently bringing a sense of atmosphere to the otherwise straightforward attack of the subsequent post-grunge of “No Isolation.”

Following their 1996 debut, Faithful, the next two Eternal Elysium records — 2000’s Spiritualized D and 2002’s Share — were released by MeteorCity, marking their introduction to North American audiences. They’ve had a number of EPs and splits out along the way, including one in 2007 with Black Cobra, and have issued two full-lengths since Searching Low and High in 2009’s Within the Triad and last year’s excellent return, Resonance of Shadows (review here).

Originally issued on Diwphalanx Records with a follow-up vinyl through Hydro-Phonic in 2011, Searching Low and High finds Eternal Elysium at an interesting point in the arc of their overarching progression, confident enough four records deep to throw a little country swing into “Before the Morning Comes” as might a Pepper Keenan-fronted C.O.C. or to play off acid folk on the 1:42 aside “Hazy Sublime” earlier, but well aware that the core of their approach lies in the thickened groove of a song like second cut “Not So Far,” which answers the faster initial rollout of “Reefer Happiness” by unfolding a doomer nod before turning at its halfway point to madcap stoner punk that here jumps from one channel to the other as it makes its way through its careening course toward a solo-topped bookending slowdown.

eternal elysium

The opening salvo, followed immediately by the aforementioned “Hazy Sublime,” represents the very roots of what works best about Searching Low and High, but Eternal Elysium aren’t content to rest on that alone, and the substance of the album proves more varied and more satisfying than it would if they stuck to the same ideas across the span. And it’s precisely there that the band’s experience as songwriters becomes most relevant and, frankly, easiest to discern.

Earlier outings showcased no shortage of fervent stonerism and were righteous in doing so, but with Searching Low and High, Yukito, bassist/vocalist Tana Haugo and drummer Antonio Ishikawa move fluidly between a more varied swath of influences in a way that, in context, seems to provide a model they’d follow even on Resonance of Shadows, planting their feet firmly and moving outward from there. As the organ-laced “Before the Morning Comes” jives into the psychedelically languid “Green Song,” the trio effectively draw the listener along this path as they go, and the final act of immersion into drift is made all the more satisfying by its dynamic ebbs and flows throughout, guitar leads taking the fore of the new mix with a steady rhythmic foundation behind.

Capped with a fadeout and feedback, “Green Song” gives Searching Low and High a fitting conclusion — gone with no return — but the bonus tracks assure that the proceedings aren’t done yet. The eponymous “Eternal Elysium” appeared on the band’s demo in 1992 and “The Spiral Conclusion” featured on their 2012 split with SardoniS, but both were also on the Hydro-Phonic vinyl as well, so they’re hardly out of place here, and if you’re prone to complain about an extra 20 minutes spent with Eternal Elysium coming out of your speakers, you’re probably not taking on a reissue of Searching Low and High in the first place. Another jam. More nodding riffs. Zero argument.

It will be fascinating to see where Robustfellow takes its Robust Relics Series from here. Of course, I’ve discussed on numerous occasions the treasure trove of pre-social media heavy rock and roll that exists both in and out of current print, so there’s no shortage of fodder for the imprint to dig through and stand behind for reissue should it choose to do so, but in beginning with Eternal Elysium, a clear signal and a high standard have been set, and whether Searching Low and High will ultimately mark a departure point into the discographies of other acts or a series of revamped offerings from the Japanese rockers on their own, its arrival is as welcome as its riffs are timeless.

Eternal Elysium, Searching Low & High (2005/2017)

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