A Light Within – Body Matter
Location: Kansas, USA
Label: Static Tension Recordings
When did post-rock become such a boring, middle-of-the-road genre? While Kansas City’s A Light Within aren’t the worst perpetrators of a once-proud genre becoming vanilla-flavoured fodder for the gullible pseudo-indie masses, they do certainly tick a few brow-furrowing boxes. They appear to take many cues from the more ambient sections of contemporary djent artists, a large cut of the influence from contemporary crossover acts such as Sleepmakeswaves and Alcest. These last influences are especially evident, and rather strangely, in ‘Between Shores’, when the tone of the EP changes from pop-oriented climaxes and key changes to brooding sci-fi atmospheres, led by some rather questionable vocals, which alternate between David Draiman and amateur hour at the opera house.
It’s certainly unfortunate that A Light Within’s vocalist is often the most talented member of the ensemble. The compositions are often shaky and unsure of themselves, injected with too many conflicting ideas. The writing process most likely involved each member spouting “hey guys, I’ve got this really cool passage, I think I’m gonna dump it into the song without any forethought about how it’ll affect the rest of the instrumentals!”. That said, the band are very ambitious with their compositions, and though they’re often extraordinarily hit-and-miss, when they hit, they’re very on-point.
The EP’s highlight by far is ‘World Without A Window’ , which is littered with dynamic songwriting that begins with very simple, separate ideas between each instrument, and which soon evolve and fuse like the goddamn Megazord and builds into a purgative climax. It gives off some serious Isis vibes, and it’s the darkest, most emotive part of the EP. It’s not only the album’s strongest track for its songwriting, but also for its length. At just under five minutes, it displays the band’s potential when they condense their compositions down to a digestible length, trimming the fat and leaving only the strongest parts.
While this EP feels more like a demo than a debut commercial release, within the questionable songwriting there seems to be some serious potential. Maybe next time we’ll really get to see it shine.
Ad Hominem – Antitheist
Label: Osmose Productions
Aptly fitting in with its country’s history of literary and cultural infamy, French black metal has often framed itself as a genre for transgressors. Between the likes of Peste Noire, Deathspell Omega, and much of the Les Légions Noires collective, French BM has always had a knack for taking the European fascination with religion and the occult, turning it on its head, and injecting it with offbeat, deviant, and satirical takes on the social and political issues faced in black metal. Ad Hominem are no different. Antitheist, their fifth LP, serves to continue this sordid tradition (and celebrate their fifteen years together), by delivering an all-out attack on organised monotheistic religion.
While the whole record initially suffers from some damagingly-flat production values, the instrumentals have more than enough elbow grease to punch through the plastic, clean sound. Antitheist is beclouded by a bleak, overcast atmosphere that permeates it with a sense of explosive enmity. Vocalist/bassist Kaiser barks each virulent lyric with enough tempestuous force that you can just about hear the venom spitting from his mouth. The band delivers a multitude of vehement cries to cleanse humanity through death and disease, mocking religious figures through parodical sexual deviancy and incisive images of radical anti-religious violence.
While it’s remarkably easy to criticise a band that characterises themselves on shock factor alone (see my Marduk review from earlier this year), the variance in the instrumentals on Antitheist show that the band has far more bite than bark. Taking more cues from thrash, and even some deathrock vibes, the band manages to infuse their sardonic cuts into religion and society with powerful, pummeling percussion, and guitars that trade off between serrated and punishing, to brooding and gothic. Even if the radical anti-religious messages come off as caricaturistic most of the time, Ad Hominem have pieced together a surprisingly gripping and intense record..
Into The Divine – Harbinger of Entropy
Location: Indianapolis, IN, USA
Into The Divine are a troupe of plucky young death metallers who formed half a decade ago in their freshman year of high school. Taking cues from some time-honoured thrash acts like Machine Head and Megadeth, as well as some modern melodeath artists, they display some good-natured ambition in their music, as well as in their touring regime. With the release of their debut EP, Harbinger of Entropy, the band delivers an earnest take on the darkest aspects of melodic death metal.
The Machine Head influence immediately makes itself apparent on the wailing, gothic opening track ‘Phantasmagoria’, whose jagged, funeral-procession guitars draw stark comparison to 2007’s The Blackening. The dual guitar work from Cole Chavez and Michael McGinley do an excellent job at conveying conflict and struggle as much as they portray wistful beauty, constantly veering and shifting between harmonisation and straight-up assaulting each other. These swift transformative shifts in the music are also aided heavily by Jay Burch’s percussion, which only seems to constantly and rapidly rearrange itself to accommodate the sudden, intense emotional flux of tracks like ‘Divine Slave’.
While the band are exceptionally-talented and naturally wish to display this on their debut record, much of the EP’s weakness stems from this. Many of the songs are injected with so many different ideas that they often tend to descend into pure chaos, losing structure and straying into Yes Sir, I Will territory. Thankfully, Wilson Sherels’ diverse vocal range manages to bring some order to the record, and delivers an extraordinary performance, especially on the harrowing ‘Demons I Deceive’.
Despite its shortcomings, the sheer potential on display across Harbinger of Entropy can only make you more excited for their sophomore release. This one’s just a warm-up.