Low Roar’s fourth album, ross., is a meditative folk project that utilizes a more acoustic sound compared to the artist’s last three albums. A reflection on fame, loneliness, and family, ross. spends its run time as a meditative outlet for Karazija, the artist behind the moniker. The music is a mellow contemplation, the musical equivalent of strolling through the woods alone at night. It, like the rest of Low Roar’s music, has the essence of travel and exploration ingrained in the heart of the project. While ross. is not Low Roar’s best work, it carries on the legacy of Karazija’s unique sound while also drifting into a more acoustic direction to give the project some fresh life, even though it arguably didn’t need any.
The solo project of former Audrye Sessions frontman, Joseph Karazija, Low Roar began as a musical exercise chronicling the hardship that Karazija felt after moving to Reykjavik, Iceland alone. The sound of Low Roar was unique from the start. Low Roar, the self-titled debut, was an atmospheric meditative folk-rock album with large electronic influences; it was distinct and captivating. This sound carried over in what has arguably become Low Roar’s Magnum Opus, 0, and the amazing follow up, Once In a Long, Long While… Songs such as “Half Asleep,” “I’ll Keep Coming,” and “Don’t Be So Serious,” among many others, are longer instrumental focused tracks filled with dreamy loops and intricate percussion and piano pieces to accompany the spacey vocals. This was the identifiable sound of Low Roar.
ross. still sounds distinctly Low Roar. The middle of the album has these dreamy and atmospheric songs that have the essence of a lone traveler speaking to no one and everyone at the same time. “I’ll Make You Feel” and “Not Around” are two mellow tracks that slowly build in magnitude as they progress. “I’ll Make You Feel” begins as a soft piano ballad with an electronic buzz slowly rising in volume and energy in the background before intersecting with rising and falling electronic strings. It is at this point, in traditional Low Roar fashion, that the vocals fade away and the instrumentals carry the song forward. The piano intensifies, playing the melody that dances with the stings and buzzing electronics and accompanying the introduction of fireworks in a euphoric celebration of sound. And as it all fades away Karazija comes back in for one last line: “I’ll make you feel, I’ll make you fly / On top of the world smothered in light.”
The album even opens with an electric drone leading into “Darkest Hour,” the lead single for the project. In fact, both singles come at the very beginning of the album, with “Slow Down” following “Darkest Hour.” Both tracks deal with the emotional isolation and loneliness that Karazija has felt in his new homeland and while touring and performing, a familiar theme within his music. “Slow Down” showcases Karazija’s slow melodic vocals with an acoustic guitar accompanying him and is a great example of both Low Roar’s lyrical style and ability. Lyrics in Low Roar songs have always been an accompaniment, minimalist and expressive. “The audience doesn’t stare at me the same way anymore,” and, “Take this pill, it will calm all your nerves / I swear, you’ll be safe” both express Karazija’s experience with his rising fame — thematically similar to something like Pink Floyd’s The Wall — its a message coming at a time when Low Roar has been getting increasing exposure.
In 2016, Low Roar’s “I’ll Keep Coming” accompanied the reveal trailer for the highly anticipated Death Stranding video game, created and designed by visionary Hideo Kojima. Trailers including Low Roar’s music have received millions of views, and now that the game has dropped, this exposure continues, as Low Roar’s back-catalogue fills up much of the game’s soundtrack. It is east to understand how this new exposure and limelight, going from being a relatively small indie artist to being applauded publicly by one of the most respected members of the video game community, could affect Karazija. It becomes clear while getting to know this project that this deeply affected the song writing and themes found on ross. Songs such as “222,” “The Machine,” and “Blue Eyes” are more depressive, instrumental heavy, and minimalist tracks. They show Karazija in a very intimate and personal time in his life, losing family, dealing with stress and fame, and isolation within a busy world.
Overall, ross. is a well-produced, written, and performed album, even if it isn’t mind-blowing. At times, it feels like it is lulling and perhaps too slow, particularly around the back half of the album, but there is enough here to keep listeners hooked for multiple dedicated listens. It continues the distinct atmospheric sound of Low Roar while also showing a more stripped back sound, in comparison with past albums, relying less heavily on electronic-influenced instrumentals. The sounds are familiar, and the themes are familiar, yet it still feels fresh and welcome.
Recommended If You Like: Snowmine, Silent Poets, S. Carey
Recommended Tracks: 1 (Darkest Hour), 2 (Slow Down), 4 (I’ll Make You Feel), 5 (Not Around), 7 (Feel Like Dying)
Do Not Play: None
Written by Matt Stratton on 12/03/2019