Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Storm of Light: Nations to Flames (2013)

Industrial Light and Magic

A Storm of Light’s 2011 As the Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade could be one of the most underrated albums of 2011. It combined Neurosian post-metal with doom and a healthy dose of the personality of 1990’s Seattle’s finest: Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. ASOL was at the forefront of the burgeoning movement to make 90’s alternative rock acceptable in metal. Seriously, that could be a thing we’re all sick of in about three years.

Follow-up Nations to Flames mines the same era, but they’ve hit a new vein: 90’s industrial rock/metal. In 2013, as in 2011, that 90’s influence is not real concrete. It doesn’t sound like music that came out at the time, and it’s really more of a feel that it borrows. But the influence is there, nonetheless, and I’d challenge you not to hear Ministry in some of these tracks.

The distorted vocals in opener “Fall” are the first hint that there might be a nod to Ministry here, especially when he starts to repeat the song's title. Fourth track “Omen” takes that all the way, sounding almost like a Ministry song with different drums. That keeps getting hammered home: “Dead Flags” pays homage to the verses of Stabbing Westward’s “What Do I Have to Do?” and "All the Shining Lies" has a Ministry/Static-X riff. The abundance of samples on the record is also a strong hint.

Despite borrowing so much of the sense of industrial rock and metal, ASOL still play like a band led by a former member of Neurosis. It doesn’t have that choppy precision, and there are no industrial drumbeats. However, it does end up much faster than its predecessor, and any resemblance to post-anything is all but gone.

They struck a nice balance; yet, despite my weakness for industrial rock, this not quite as powerful and engaging as their grunge excursions. There are several very good songs, but in the end, Nations is not the monumental force Valley was.

The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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