Passengers, Artifex Pereo’s latest album, picks up where their 2014 Tooth and Nail Records debut, Time in Place, left off. The Louisville, Kentucky six-piece ensemble plays grandiose prog-alt, usually in a shuffling meter, combining pop-rock with experimental flashes. Befitting the band’s above-the-Earth, drone-filmed lyric videos for this album, its conceptual protagonist has now left the grand view of geocentric orbit to languish among the rubble of society’s disillusionment.
Upon returning to Earth in the ambient introductory track “Re-Entry,” Passengers makes its opening punch with “First, Do No Harm,” a galloping eco-anthem cataloging humanity’s mistreatment of our planet while correlating the ongoing destruction with our own bodily and spiritual capacity for change. “Lost is the power to harvest our worth,” laments singer Lucas Worley in an engagingly powerful coo reminiscent of bygone labelmates The Juliana Theory. Obtuse guitars swathe the intricate drumming and cascading piano figures on the track.
“Paper Ruled All” heats things up with math-rock instrumental tendencies and post-hardcore vocal garnishes, its proem framing a critical inquest of the world’s leaders — or possibly ourselves: “Is your ambition to watch the world burn?” The desolate “Space Between Thoughts” turns things inward, the track highlighted by tumbling percussion and waves of harmony insulating a cerebral query of personal fulfillment. “Soft Weapons,” one of the best songs on Passengers, further questions mankind’s oligarchy declaring that “they’ll distort the truth, package it as proof.”