New Light Choir - Volume II
High Roller Records
Progressive rock/proto-metal
10 songs (34' 49")
Release year: 2015
Reviewed by Andy

New Light Choir's new LP, Volume II, came as a surprise to me, with short, very catchy songs that still have a somewhat progressive feel. This is a band that has clearly listened to a lot of older hard rock and metal; here you can get references to 90s black metal, there to 70s prog, in some places to Angel Witch, in another place to Mercyful Fate...or is that the listener reading too much into it? Regardless, I found Volume II to be an immensely interesting album, filled with complexity.

The listener, upon hearing the opening tremolo-picking of Higher Fire (Proximity), can be forgiven for thinking he has accidentally put a black metal album in his player, but that turns out to be merely the opening to a catchy, swinging ballad with chunky riffing, a cheap garage overdrive that reminded me a bit of the back-to-basics distortion of Ancient VVisdom's last album -- or maybe the 70s-retro feel of Ghost, but without any of the occult-grunge stylings of the former or the Satanism of the latter. Frost and Fire and April Witch have a lonely, minor key sound to the melody, underscored by John Niffenegger's high voice, and the latter song has a point on the chorus in which all the guitars run together in a crush of sound that, given the primitive nature of the guitar overdrive used, reminds one of early punk.

What I like most about the way the songs are put together is how mutable the combination is. In an age filled with strictly categorized genres, listening to New Light Choir is a throwback to the exciting times of the 60s and 70s, when a new band might arrive with a sound that no one was quite ready to categorize. One can't help but think of this on songs like July Sky, a poetic song with an ominous undercurrent underneath it, and New Light in October seems like the continuation of this one. It has a similar theme, but, as it grows slower, adding more complex riffing underneath. Another favorite of mine is Darkest of Nights. Fast and echoing, the drumming clatters along with Niffenegger's singing making each lyric verse sound static and immutable atop a smooth vibrato guitar melody.

Volume II is a strange but interesting album, with the songs rooted in early hard rock and heavy metal but with a fey, dark streak to them that makes the album worthy of comparison to something by Hammers of Misfortune. This is worthwhile to get if you like clever proto-metal that references early classics in a very modern way.

Bandcamp: https://newlightchoir.bandcamp.com/

Killing Songs :
Higher Fire (Proximity), Darkest of Nights
Andy quoted 83 / 100
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