Friday, July 15, 2011

A Storm Of Light - As The Valley Of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade (2011)


Combining the grit and determination of sludge with the down tempo elements of doom, A Storm Of Light has arrived. They have created a soundscape of bleak, ominous instrumentals with this, their third full length recording. On "As The Valley Of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade," we reach the eye of the proverbial storm, surrounded by darkness. Can we find our way through the driving rain?

The pacing is deliberate, with alternating periods of chugging excellence and winding instrumentals dominating "Missing." The drumming is the constant strength, with glorious patterns emerging from the fold. The kick drum locks in perfectly to the rattling bass line, while the howling vocals are delivered with no regard for tone. And while the track stacks up to a robust six minutes, it seems to fly by in a low end explosion. In steep contrast to the album opener, "Collapse" begins somewhat daintily, in a way that many outsiders may regard as a Tool-esque sound. But the introduction of the deep, earth shaking distorted guitars shakes that similarity to its core. The aggressive moments are devastating, while the somber moments are dreary. Both sides of the coin will leave you vibrating from the lows.

The band waste no time building up in "Black Wolves," choosing to unleash the crunching riffs and drums from the onset. The sludge/stoner styled vocals are the perfect fit for the track. They are simplistic, yet equally emotional. The brief acoustic passage shows off the talents of the band, creating a docile interlude before a blasting roll takes us back to the coarse tones. "Destroyer" takes an opposite approach, beginning as a walk on the softer side, driven by a bass line that as smooth as silk. Acoustic guitar melodies cut through the hammering drums. The vocals remain off key and down, yet carry more weight amongst the less abrasive backing. The track builds to a fury, and the beasts are unleashed, with cymbals resonating for seconds after each crash.

We are treated to the barrage of kicks, snares, cymbals and toms that commands "Wretched Valley," a rare feat of having the drums take the lead in a song. The guitars, strong as they may be, play second fiddle to the percussion. "Silver" is, perhaps the very definition of sludge, grinding forward in a mess of distortion, guitar chords, bass notes and drums all thumping through your speakers in crushing unison. The more conventional drum patterns of "Leave No Wounds" may seem out of place among the other material presented, but they serve their purpose, allowing the vocal track to be delivered without resistance. The sizzle of cymbals layered with a clean bass part is a brilliant combination.

The bowel releasing low end of "Death's Head" is frightening. It is as if the band turned off the mid range and treble completely. The addition of light synthesizers is well placed, albeit faint. The singing style is raspy, almost yelling. The effects used on the vocals may seem distracting at times, but they are important to the overall aesthetic. The nearly eleven minute closing track, "Wasteland," is far from barren. It is a flourishing field of all things sludge, doom and post-metal. From the heavy distortion to the punishment of constant drum assault, all of the elements of a dirty, dirty track are here. But it isn't all doom and gloom. A few brief sections of acoustics and keys lend themselves well to lightening the mood. The song fades away, as does the album.

To take in "As The Valley Of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade," you have to imagine yourself sailing through an ocean oil spill, assaulted by waves from all directions. This is not an album for the faint of heart, or the weak willed. But, to be clear, the reward far outweighs the risk. Despite the title to the contrary, your memories of this album will grow stronger with time. For A Storm Of Light, the future does, indeed, look bright.

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