OK, it’s only the beginning of April, but I don’t think it’s too early to start thinking about album-of-the-year candidates. After all, I have heard a good deal of the releases scheduled through May (with one notable exception that I hope to hear damn soon), so I think it’s OK to start putting stuff in preliminary position.
With that in mind, one of the first records so far this year that knocked me for a loop and made me excited about music in general is the new release from London’s Light Bearer, a four-song, nearly 80-minute adventure that demands your full attention and your patience but certainly will reward you outright if you give into their music. Most of the six songs push the 10-15-minute mark and are packed with ideas upon ideas. Yet while that might seem like a little too much to endure and something ambitious beyond fault, it all works magically and takes your breath away. At least it did mine.
There’s a good reason the band’s second full-length “Silver Tongue” is as epic as it is. It is the second chapter of a very long and imaginative story (that started on debut “Lapsus”) dreamt up by vocalist/lyricist/conceptualist Alex CF (also of Momentum), who put together a story that centers on the fall of Lucifer from heaven, his disenchantment with a God he loved, and his journey to become the dark leader who provides freedom of will and thought for all those who follow him. The story, which will continue over two more full-lengths and EPs also will move toward Eve, her decision to reject God’s directive in Eden, and her role in the formation of humanity. Hell, it sounds like records wouldn’t be enough to tell this whole tale. Where’s Peter Jackson when you need him?
The rest of Light Bearer is rounded out by guitarists Jamie Starke and Matthew Bunkell, bassist Gerfriend, drummer Joseph, and sample specialist Lee Husher. Sorry. I had some full names, and some I only have first names. I’m sure everyone will live. The band’s music moves from post-metal to post-hardcore, into classic, late 90s/early 00s screamo, and even some black metal and sludge, and they need all of those parts to tell each section of the story properly and with the right amount of emotion. It’s a killer, cascading effort that’s akin to that giant book you never think you’ll conquer, but once you get into the meat of the story, you find it impossible to put it down. Same goes for “Silver Tongue.”
“Beautiful Is This Burden” begins this chapter with ambiance, gorgeous strings, and horns that seem to indicate the end of all creation is near. It takes five minutes of build for the song to open up and swallow you, with harsh screams, post-metal-style drama, and incredible shoegaze-like stretching. The song goes back and forth, also coming upon peaks of vicious thrashing, and once it subsides more than 18 minutes later, you’re likely to be out of breath. “Amalgam” and “Matriarch” feel like parts 1 and 2 of the same track but are indeed separate. “Amalgam” is dusty and mucky, with a chugging pace, gruff vocals, and a total assault on your imagination, while “Matriarch” starts to feel aquatic and somewhat prog-fueled, but it also has some devastating, earth quaking moments that feel like the very ground beneath you swallowing you whole and pulling you to the core of the planet.
After the brief “Clarus,” that is creaky, ambient, and death-filled, it’s into “Aggressor and Usurper,” a 17-miniute piece that also is sludgy and heavy like so much of the record, but suddenly the song heaves itself into a faster tempo not heard before on the album, and it grows into a crushing, fevered pitch that should make your insides melt away. The end of the song gets grisly and ugly, but also beautifully emotional, as the promise of, “I will not yield!” is howled and the song fades away. The titanic title track closer is the perfect final scene, the ideal climax to this amazing record. The song opens gently and, dare I say, on a note that reminds me of pop. It’s melodic and gushing, and it’s a great red herring that shields you from the explosion ahead, when the track rips itself open. The vocal expression borderlines on heart-wrenching, reminding me of envy, and before the apocalyptic, decimating finish, there’s a sequence where the pace halts, the sounds die down, and a folk-like section rises up. It’s lovely and cathartic, yet you then realize we’re only halfway through the overall story, so any emotional shine is temporary.
Lightbearer have come up with a musical and philosophical masterpiece, something you could recommend to fans of Neurosis, ISIS, and Thrice as well as those who love Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” It’s a dark, yet hopeful journey, and it’s some of the most imaginative metallic compositions of the year so far. Go out of your way to hear this thing. You, too, might add it to your short list of album of the year contenders. Yes, already.
For more on the band, go here: http://lightbearerband.wordpress.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/releases/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/