Sound — 9
A Storm Of Light is a metal band that was formed by Josh Graham, better known as the visual artist for Neurosis and as a former member of Red Sparowes. Josh handles gutiar, vocals and keyboards. The band is filled out by Domenic Seita on bass, Billy Graves on drums and Andrea Black on guitar. "Nations to Flames" is the fourth full-length album by A Storm of Light, with 11 tracks. The album features guests Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) and Will Lindsay (Nachtmystium) on select tracks - but unfortunately I can't find any literature to confirm which tracks they guest on. The album opens with the track "Fall," which has the sound of a crowd (possibly rioting or protesting) in the intro which is followed by drums and then a thundering bass before the guitar riff comes in. "Apostles of Hatred" starts with demonic laughter and a wicked down-tuned guitar riff and the vocals start with a chant that turns to a wordless scream. From there, the track is carried by excellent guitar work reminiscent of early doom metal. "The Fire Sermon" has a very scattered feel in the intro but then builds to a slow riff with a lot of groove and a keyboard melody sitting under the mix. "Omen" is one of the faster tracks on the album, with a simple and powerful riff running through the majority of the track. The only reason the simple riff from "Omen" works is the pounding bass guitar and some very solid drum work. "Dead Flags" opens up with a lot of static, a loose bass riff and some primal drumming and builds using sampled audio from speeches, then slowly adds in a simple riff with multiple permutations throughout the track. "All the Shining Lies" is up next which makes a lot of use of harmonics in the intro and a few other passages, and the vocals are dripping with melancholy and anger. "Disintegrate" has a few pick scrapes in the beginning acting as a counterpoint to the drumming, but soon builds to a fast guitar gallops and chugs. "Lifeless" starts with an audio clip of a woman saying "yes" and then something else I can't make out, then the drumming comes in fast and pounding, with some nice fat distorted chords and growled vocals. "Soothsayer" starts out with a clean guitar with a nice dollop of delay on top of it and a little bit of synth. Next on the track is an audio clip from a speech, and slowly the drums come in mixed in with the sounds of people screaming in the background. The track is under 2 minutes, which makes it the shortest track on the album by far. Next up is "You Are the Hunted" which starts heavy and with a lot of groove, but still with the sounds of people screaming in the mix. The aggression of the track seems to be continually building up throughout. The album closes out with the track "The Year Is One," which uses assorted audio clips heavily while adding generous amounts of reverb, then builds up with a pounding drum pattern and a creepy guitar line. All in all, a very effective track for ending the album – it makes me want to start the album over again when it finishes.
Lyrics — 8
Josh Graham does a pretty solid job with vocals, but a large part of it is the specific vocal processing that he uses, which sounds to be some type of delay/reverb and possibly some type of light distortion. There are also a lot of audio clips used on the album from media and public speeches. The lyrical themes tend to be about the collapse of civilizations, much as the album title insinuates. As an example of the lyrics, here are some from "You Are the Hunted": "Year of the wolf/ raging upon us/ you are the hunted/ you are the hunted/ we were the meek." Honestly, I can't make out all the lyrics accurately enough to post them here, but what I've heard has been some really interesting stuff.
Overall Impression — 9
A Storm of Light are a new discovery for me, but now I'm busy hunting down their earlier material to add to my mp3 player. While they technically meet the guidelines to be called post-metal, they still retain something of a more straightforward metal sound. I'm especially impressed with the expertly primitive mixing on the album, where each instrument sits where it should in the mix without taking the raw power away from the music. The guitar riffs in general are just heavy as sh-t and relentless. It would be hard to pick my favorite tracks off of this album as I really enjoyed every single track from the album. I highly recommend this album to fans of metal, doom or sludge metal, or even post-rock.