A Storm Of Light
Nations To Flames
30 September 2013
by Rob McAuslan
You can’t really talk about A Storm Of Light without at least mentioning Neurosis, given ASOL’s Josh Graham’s ties with that collective. But let’s make the current situation as clear as possible – A Storm Of Light aren’t like Neurosis any longer, beyond the most superficial, cursory examination. It’s heavy both in sound and presentation, yes, but that’s where any realistic similarity ends.
There used to be a strong case for writing ASOL off as a kind of less-interesting Neurosis – it was all meandering chuggy riffs dealt up with a strong air of brooding post-metal ‘right-on’ attitude, and it sounded a lot like everyone’s favourite beardos forgot how to write songs. Then As The Valley Of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade came out a few years ago (did you know Graham was also part of Red Sparowes? Obvious now, eh?) and there was a definite, if not quite so apparent as this latest makes clear, swerve away from the mothership. Cleaner vocals and tighter songs gained them both a wider appreciation and touring opportunities with the likes of Converge, which helped spread the impact of their new sound.
Was this a successful metamorphosis? Not at that point so much (with ASOL still heavily redolent of Josh Graham’s other work and suffering a little for the comparison), but with Nations To Flames there’s a far greater leap and it almost feels as if they’re an entirely new band such is the difference wrought. Gone are the ponderous, pained chugs and forced-sounding bellow, replaced with a litheness and almost limitless sense of righteous power spread across more compact, immediate arrangements and crowned by a vocal performance that evokes Jaz Coleman at his most hoarsely incensed.
That same raw intensity drives the whole band. Billy Graves smashes prime Killing Joke tribal rhythms with a relentless mechanoid pulse that recall the effortless steely groove of Prong’s Ted Parsons, anchoring ex-Tombs man Domenic Seita’s prowling basslines to the snarl and swirl of Graham’s guitar. It’s the language of the heaviest industrial as spoken by hardcore punks – the defiant howl of ‘Lifeless’ and it’s inexorable repetitious build, riff on riff on riff until it feels like either your head or heart will explode is perhaps the purest expression of this on the record. That martial venom driving Nations To Flames pushes A Storm Of Light out from under the shadow of their previous bands and into their own sickly spotlight.
It’s still far from perfect – a little more variation in pace over the course of the album would have been great, and not every song is perhaps as strong as it could be – but over their older incarnations? Nations To Flames represents a much more intriguing direction that suits A Storm Of Light far better than anything they’ve previously put their name to.
Sounds Like: Weighty, doom-soaked industrial hardcore with a vicious metallic bent
Standout Tracks: Omen, Lifeless, You Are The Hunted