A Storm Of Light

Nations To Flames

Written by: AP on 06/01/2014 22:11:44

Despite their moniker suggesting otherwise, A Storm of Light have only grown darker with each release since their 2008 debut "And We Wept the Black Ocean Within", evolving their post-rock origins into an inventive fusion of post-metal, doom, sludge and industrial. On this fourth LP "Nations to Flames" that transformation continues, and in upping the aggression, intensity and skill of songwriting, the band may well have written their most accomplished album to date. Conceptually it is a continuation of the post-apocalyptic theme explored on 2009's "Forgive Us Our Trespasses"; a tale of human failure and societal collapse due to overpopulation and pollution loosely inspired by Margaret Atwood's short fiction "Time Capsule Found on the Dead Planet" from 2009.

Notably, "Nations to Flames" sees vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist and founding member Josh Graham departing from the characteristic clean singing of the band's past efforts, preferring instead a more visceral and deliberately atonal approach which has drawn comparisons to Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman - a decision allegedly influenced by touring with Converge prior to entering the recording studio. Instrumentally, the music now reflects Graham's interest in faster music, which he claims was refreshed at the 2012 edition of All Tomorrow's Parties, where Graham, along with his compatriots drummer Billy Graves and bassist Domenic Seita, felt energised by Slayer's soundcheck, and it occurred to them that their music need not be slow dirge in order to be punishing. Suffice it to say that the added ferocity in the vocal department, as well as the increased velocity of many of the songs, actually afford A Storm of Light more sonic weight than before.

On previous efforts A Storm of Light have tempted references to the heavier alternative rock and post-grunge of bands like Thrice, City of Ships and Sights & Sounds, but such similarities are now all but moot. Rather, the style of the songs here resembles the entrancing pummel of acts like Minsk, Mouth of the Architect and Neurosis (for whom Graham incidentally produced visuals between 2000 and 2012) - all the way up to the rough, organic production for which those bands are renowned. The constancy of the bass and guitar riffs, and the tribal technique of drumming, too, both shadow the sludgy psychedelics of Neurosis, while the mood, full of suspense and alarm, is like a page out of the Cult of Luna book (lose yourself in the unsettling "Apostles of Hatred" for an enthralling example of all of the above).

Tonally then, "Nations to Flames" is very much in keeping with its morose concept: there is a perpetual sense of doom to the proceedings here, be it the noise and disarray that conclude "The Fire Sermon"; the chaos and urgency of "Omen" and "Disintegrate"; or the portent nature of "Dead Flags", a hypnotic sermon to the apocalypse that might as well have been written by some doomsday cult. In all three songs, and indeed throughout the album, it is the inspired drumming of Graves especially which impresses, providing an aptly monolithic foundation to the matrimony of earth-rattling bass and dark, discordant melodies of Seita and Graham. His rhythms are as atypical as they are sublime, affording "Nations to Flames" its trance-like quality, not to mention the necessary gravity to support its hefty thematic content.

Needless to say, I find myself enamoured by all of this, the darkness ever so inviting. It's compelling, evocative and has that air of danger that gives heavy music its edge, and it is not without some semblance of a moth to flames that I readily immerse myself in disconcerting rites of mayhem like "Lifeless", unable to resist its thundering yet textured percussion and pitch black atmosphere. I do concede that at 51-or-so minutes, the pummel has the potential to grow a little repetitive, but in noting this, I also appreciate that this is a conscious choice; that this kind of litany is exactly what A Storm of Light must have pursued when writing the record. The songs themselves pack profuse quantities of detail to delve into, and to me the relative lack of distinction between them betrays a sense of unity - not an absence of creativity. It's highly despondent, intense and suffocating stuff; metal for stormy weather.

Download: Apostles of Hatred, The Fire Sermon, Omen, Dead Flags, Lifeless
For the fans of: Mastodon, Minsk, Neurosis, Mouth of the Architect
Listen: Facebook

Release date 17.09.2013
Southern Lord

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