When Josh Graham officially left the line-up of Neurosis, as their live visual artist, late last year, it hardly came as a surprise that his own band A Storm of Light would become his sole focus, something that he’s been steadily working on for the last few years with partner in crime, Dominic Seita.
The band’s first two albums, and particularly 2009’s stellar Forgive Us Our Trespasses, saw the band carve out their own sound of doom-imbued sludge metal that certainly plucked a few feathers from Neurosis but had its own flair. However with 2011’s As the Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade, the band flipped the model on its head – shorter songs, faster riffs and a vigorous dose of hooks.
It was definitely a divisive album but a commendable effort that yielded some crushing tunes like ‘Missing’ but also the catchy ‘Leave No Wounds’ that was quite a step away from their earlier material. With Nations To Flames A Storm of Light have maintained the core ideas of As The Valley… but sharpened the edges extensively for what is their most abrasive and ruthless album yet.
The glossier production work of As The Valley… is not found here. Nations To Flames is a much rougher album with angular riffing complementing the sludgy foundation that the band was built on in the first place.
The big change though comes in the shape of the vocals from Josh Graham. Soaked in effects and reverb, his mournful groaning vocals sound far more demented here. Frankly on first listens they are rather off-putting but after several listens and immersing one’s self in Nations To Flames’ nuances, they make perfect sense to accompany the overall stylistic change.
The effects make Graham sound all the more menacing, even if they sacrifice some of the natural feeling. However, the album is still, of course, reliant on riffs to keep the cacophony interesting and A Storm of Light have never been in short supply. Nations to Flames is no different.
‘Fall’, which opens the record, makes ASOL’s intentions rather clear as a ruthless barrage of riffs and the new attitude come bellowing through the speakers, at the new speed that the band seem most comfortable.
‘Dead Flags’ harks back to their band’s doom influences a little bit with an earth shuddering riff that seems a tad simple at first but these bended strings leave craters in the ground. Following that is ‘All The Shining Lies’, which is ridden with razor edged riffs that fiercely slash through the speakers and show that Graham has many a riff up his sleeve.
Some may consider Nations to Flames to be contrived considering it’s a notable change in aggression and vitriol on the band’s part. It’s definitely a conscious effort and can feel a little unnatural at times but if anything, it’s daring. A Storm of Light wanted to mix things up with a visceral record and that’s what they’ve done.
Nations to Flames is released September 17th through Southern Lord