A Storm of Light sit at an interesting nexus of genres. The band, led by Josh Graham (formerly of Neurosis and Red Sparowes, and who also makes dark ambient music under the IIVII moniker), combine the spaciousness and grace of post-metal with the raw power of crust, resulting in songs that are hard-hitting, both musically and emotionally. The results have been slightly inconsistent in the past, but the previous two albums were both excellent, leading to the conclusion that Graham and co. had hit upon a winning formula. But, with a five-year gap between previous album Nations to Flames and new record Anthroscene, it is hard not to wonder if their previous momentum may have been lost to time.
Whilst previous albums from A Storm of Light felt like they were painting grand pictures about social and environmental issues, Anthroscene feels like the most lyrically-focused release from the band yet. There was a sense with previous songs that A Storm of Light were almost observers, one step removed from what they were describing; undeniably sincere in their call for change, but sometimes lacking a personal dimension. That’s no longer the case with Anthroscene, which includes all of us in its criticisms, most bluntly on second track “Blackout” with the line “what the fuck is wrong with us?” being delivered with pointed venom. Graham’s vocals are prominent in the mix, and the way he delivers his lines – not quite sung, not quite shouted – makes his lyrics come through clearly.
It’s “Prime Time” to check out this song, dude.
All of which would count for nothing if the actual songs were no good; but thankfully, anyone who has enjoyed previous records by A Storm of Light is sure to enjoy their latest. Heavy, lumbering riffs sit atop frantic tribal-influenced drum patterns, that often feel apocalyptic and anxiety-inducing; a vision of societal collapse approaches in slow motion, best demonstrated by fourth track “Life Will Be Violent”. Such moments sit alongside more spacious movements, that provide a necessary sense of contrast that stops Anthroscene collapsing under its own weight. Fifty minutes of riffs of this weight and emotional power could quickly run the risk of becoming overwhelming, but by providing moments of relative respite, A Storm of Light ensure that their music never loses its impact.
If there is a main criticism to be levelled though, it’s that no particular track stands out. Each song is at least five minutes long, and they are all built from largely the same component parts. No riff or section is especially memorable, and there’s no song that captures the same sense of tension and release as, say, “Collapse” from As the Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade did. Yet this feels potentially unfair on Anthroscene; it is an album that is consistent, and that no single song stands out also means that there is no obvious low point. That it suffers in comparison to the previous two outings is no slight, but rather renders this recording a victim of past successes. Were this to be your first encounter with the band, then it will doubtlessly leave a positive impression.
Get lost in the “Slow Motion Apocalypse”…
Whilst Anthroscene may not hit the same heights as the previous two albums, it is still a very good listen, filled with a spirit of righteous protest and disgust at modern life, that combines the best of post-metal and crust into an emotionally and politically-charged howl of rage. But it also leaves a sense of longing for the highs of Nations to Flames and As the Valley of Death Becomes Us…. Matching those mighty albums would have been a tall task, though, and that Anthroscene doesn’t manage it shouldn’t be perceived as any great criticism. Existing fans will enjoy the album for certain, but those unfamiliar with A Storm of Light are better advised to go back to the previous two before coming to this one.
Anthroscene Track Listing:
01. Prime Time
03. Short Term Feedback
04. Life Will Be Violent
05. Slow Motion Apocalypse
07. Laser Fire Forget
Release Date: October 5, 2018
Run Time: 51:00
Record Label: Consouling Sounds / Translation Loss