Every Friday, The Metal Examiner delves metal’s endless depths to present the genre’s most important and exciting albums.
A Storm Of Light: “Destroyer”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/04-Destroyer.mp3|titles=A Storm Of Light, “Destroyer”]
Since its inception, Josh Graham’s A Storm Of Light has adopted a model that’s based squarely on collective evolution, be it in something as complex as its musical aspirations or something as simple as its personnel. With its fourth release, As the Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade, the group seemingly moves a little further from its loose “project” designation yet seemingly keeps the “band” label at arm’s length.
With its sound rooted firmly in no-frills rock, Valley’s style could best be described as “talk metal” or, barring that, “verbal doom.” Graham’s vocals tend to avoid conventional melody, or at least anything too advanced, instead coming off more as pitched declarations of ideology over the anvil attack of bassist Dominic Seita and newcomer drummer B.J. Graves. Though the obvious comparisons to contemporaries Neurosis or Unsane will make sense, Valley really borrows more heavily from mid-1990s hard rock — the half-spoken, hard-truth heaviness of Rollins Band, or the sludgy Sabbath nods of Soundgarden (fittingly, guitarist Kim Thayil pops in for a pair of guest spots: “Missing” and “Black Wolves”). The chugging “Collapse” evokes a less tom-reliant form of Tool, and the environmentalist-turned-existentialist “Destroyer” finally explains what a Queensrÿche / Alice in Chains / Rage Against the Machine collaboration might have sounded like.
None of this, however, should suggest that A Storm Of Light has become some kind of throwback or revivalist group; if anything, the group’s embrace of sounds past and present allows it to go a third way, at once familiar and new. The buzzsaw-jam opening “Missing” and molasses sweep of “Death’s Head” complement the near-operatic, eleven-minute, sludge-prog closer “Wasteland” in a way that shows knowledge rather than emulation, and the death march of “Silver” creates a nice sense of continuity as it resurrects the early-album doom of “Black Wolves.”
Ultimately, though Valley’s tracks hit all of the right notes, the album as a whole still maintains the workmanlike feel of A Storm Of Light’s earlier works. Few would say that’s a bad thing in and of itself, but many had hoped that Valley would be the album where the band didn’t just hit its stride but reached new heights as well.