In the serene landscapes of South Australia, where the vastness of the universe meets the tranquil countryside, a musical journey unfolds. Carl Belle, the Australian progressive rock composer, embarks on a new chapter under the moniker Elias, revealing his latest sonic creation, the album “Atlas.” It’s not just a collection of tracks; it’s a testament to resilience, creativity, and the intricate dance between the personal and the universal.
With the album being unleashed, Carl shares a sense of relief. The anxieties that accompany the creative process are real, growing as a project wears on. Yet, the completion of the album and the approval from guest musicians mark a triumphant moment. Recording everything solo, as is Carl’s norm, is a battle not just on the technical front but also on the artistic front. The absence of bandmates means navigating an introspective landscape without the immediate feedback loop. Trusting oneself becomes paramount, even when it seems that imposter syndrome is the only companion.
“Atlas” stands as an evolution from its predecessor, “1977.” Time has passed, life has unfolded, and the music perfectly articulates Carl’s current state. The album is a reflection of the frantic and faceted nature of his reality, with a common theme woven through all the tracks.
The creation of “Atlas” is not just a musical challenge; it’s a massive overhaul. Everything is new – guitars, bass, keys, effects, plugins, computer, digital audio workstation, microphones, and even techniques. The writing process unfolded during the early C19 years in Melbourne, marked by over 270 days of lockdown. In the midst of it all, Carl and his family made a daring move to South Australia. The challenges of lockdown, packing up a life, and relocating become part of the album’s narrative. Sometimes, the sheer amazement is that anything gets done at all.
But challenges persist. Carl set out to feature guest musicians on this record, adding layers to the complexity. Writing parts for each of them and coordinating across different time zones and hemispheres became a feat of project management. However, it’s a challenge Carl is thankful for, as each guest, including talents like Alex Machacek, Derek Sherinian, and Dewa Budjana, agreed to be part of the project. The juxtaposition of his solos with those of exceptionally talented musicians exposes flaws, a vulnerability that makes the album authentic.
Amid the challenges, Carl challenged himself further. Techniques like Frank Gambale-style sweep picking and Tosin Abasi-style thumping were embraced and deployed with varying degrees of success. The album became a canvas for experimentation and growth.
The instrumental aspects of “Atlas” delve into a profound theme – anxiety. The title, referencing the Greek titan Atlas, reflects the weight carried by each person in their mind. Anxiety, like an oscillation, finds expression in the music – sometimes uplifting, sometimes bleak. Carl’s guitar playing, marked by a sense of urgency, reflects the rush to completion, a mirror to challenging times. The music becomes a vessel to capture the complexities of navigating a world with an anxiety condition.
The journey doesn’t end with the album release. Carl shares his insights into the progressive rock/metal scene in 2022, acknowledging the enormous talent present, especially the fascinating fusion of jazz and metal. Influences from guitarists like Wes Thrailkill and Dewa Budjana, coupled with a love for the rhythmic innovations of Animals as Leaders and drummers like Marco Minnemann, shape the musical landscape of Elias.
As the conversation transitions to Carl’s top five records of all time, he hesitates, recognizing the challenge of such a question. Yet, classics like Yes’s “Going for the One” and King Crimson’s “Starless and Bible Black” find their place in the musical pantheon.
Beyond the album release, Carl unfolds plans for the future. Venturing into filmmaking and visual effects, he envisions animated shorts for each track off the new album. The prospect of a new guitar for the next album and a return to first principles for technique refinement loom on the horizon. The promise to take time for the next album, to break patterns, and explore the extended range guitar and jazz chords become a roadmap for the musical journey ahead.