A band reinventing itself is not an uncommon occurrence, but a successful reinvention is, and the more drastic the shift, the less likely it is to succeed. There are some notable success stories, but let's face it, not every band can have the graceful chance of being, say, Anathema. One of the most recent bands to take the chance and reinvent themselves are metal legends A Storm of Light, and while the shift is less drastic than most, it leaves them carrying a huge burden for success. They were put on the map for their doom-laden post-metal musings, and their recent album, Nations to Flames, takes everything about their past and throws it out the door.
Given the bloated, droning compositions that defined the majority of their catalogue, calling Nations to Flames a radical departure would be a severe understatement. Featuring eleven bite-sized tracks that never exceed the six minute mark, the album completely abandons any indication of their post-metal history in favour of straightforward melodic sludge metal. Taking pages out of the Mastodon playbook and the Encyclopædia Arenarockicka*, the songs feature strong individual riffs, accessible compositions, and some sicknasty** soloing. While the bands trademarked doom metal aesthetic is still firmly in place, they're overlayed on an entirely diffierent set of compositions. While this does give some refuge of familiarity in a foreign setting, it mostly gives the music a haunting quality, with those familiar vocals and guitar tones being put to unusual use. Additionally, Nations to Flames really likes to wear its feelings on its sleeve--far from their old pensive, brooding compositions, the songs here are all direct and easily accessible. The lyrics are unambiguous, the structures are predictable, and the melodies are gratifying.
And while that type of composition is normally a severe drawback for a band, what's amazing is that this radical shift in tone doesn't seem to harm A Storm of Light's quality in the slightest. Maybe it's just the sudden change leaving little to compare to, but Nations to Flames is brimming with fantastic songs and never seems to let up. Sure, the music has been stripped down to its heavy metal core, and it's really hard to hate music so unrepentant in its own appeal, but it's also easy for that music to wear out its welcome fast, and A Storm of Light never seem to hit that point.
This isn't the band you're familiar with, no matter what the name says. But it's still a fantastic album of heavy metal, and I can't fault anyone for that.
* Not actually a thing that exists.
** Also not actually a thing that exists.
Recommended if you like: Mastodon, Gojira,
8.0 / 10
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