Des Moines’ Druids has drastically brought their influences to the forefront on their latest album. Cycles of Mobeum (2016) — a 43-minute odyssey charting the journey of the character Warpia on her planet Mobeum — warps and bends between unflinching highlights of aspects from influences such as Mastodon and Iron Maiden, Sleep and Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd.
For those who have had this band on their radar since its inception nine years ago in Pella, Iowa — as a two-piece comprised of then-bassist Luke Rauch and drummer Keith Rich — Cycles of Mobeum is right on course for the trajectory the band has set itself. Since 2008, Druids has undergone many changes in band personnel, ultimately relocating to Des Moines and settling on a bass player in Luke’s brother, Drew. With the long-time chemistry between the brothers Rauch and Rich, as a three-piece (with Luke now on guitar) Druids has consistently evolved its scope of metal.
Pray for Water, the band’s debut in 2009, instantly enraptured metalheads with its sludgy, down-tuned incantations. The Sound of Meditation (2013) saw psychedelic and trampling soundscapes become their warp and woof (following the footsteps of Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius when they began Om after the collapse of Sleep). And now Druids brings us Cycles of Mobeum, where the band has adopted the moniker of “progressive metal”.
“The Grand Sleeve of Time” opens the album with an exercise in blues jamming, Luke layering his guitar in minor-harmonics a la Iron Maiden. The second track, “Capturing the Firemares,” features open strumming that oozes into blistering lead lines, drenched in effects—the pedalboard is what distinguishes prog: chorus, phaser, flanger, wah. “Halo” and “Oscillator” feature galloping rhythms that disintegrate in stripped-down soloing and capacious percussion. Cycles of Mobeum concludes with “Warpia,” the ode to the album’s protagonist: a spacey, slinky guitar-led track that radiates into an orchestral zenith.
From an aesthetic standpoint, Druids might find themselves more akin to Coheed and Cambria than the influences they list. The songs rely less on a foundation of chords and empty space, dependent on intervening leads to carry their ebbs and flows. Whereas The Sound of Meditation coalesced the stylizations of their musical influences, Cycles of Mobeum amalgamates their trappings — resulting in intensely discrete moving parts.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 223.