Light This City
posted on 11/2008 By:
Light This City - the young, Californian wielders of what's left of the melodeath torch - lived quickly and flickered out abruptly. Stormchaser, their posthumous work of Bay Area-bred Euroshred, is easily the most accomplished record of their too-brief (and too frantic) career, a fact that is simultaneously tragic and ironic.
When the band announced that Stormchaser would be their final salvo, there wasn't exactly an outpouring of grief from the community-at-large. Despite displaying ample ferocity and enthusiasm over the course of their previous full-length albums (a nearly ludicrous three over a five year span), the band flashed little in the way of profound impact. Their last effort, Facing The Thousand, was impressive in its brickwalled, toothsmash, lets-crank-everything-to eleven sheen - but it was still an immature offering, favoring an all-out assault bordering on redundancy. Stormchaser, while not without shortcomings, presents itself encased in a maddening shroud of "what could've been".
Now, the band don't exactly explode out of the gate on this one. Opting to open with a title track built on a lazy, Enslaved-on-Xanax riff before settling into business as usual (even if said business is conducted in a more stoic, laconic manner), initial impressions fail to excite. And despite some impressive lead work, each of the first four tracks breeze by with nary a notable thunderstrike or whirlwind to speak of. Seemingly sensing the stagnancy, the band summons Chuck "I Make Everything Awesome" Billy for a guest spot on the raucous scorcher "Firehaven," and conjures an almost "Fall of Sipledome"- type steamroll. Finally, the cloud cover is lifted, and the proverbial tempest that the band has been pursuing for years finally makes its triumphant strike.
Stormchaser's second half absolutely rips. Bursting and broiling at a thrash-lovin' clip, these songs comprise the best stabs toward Gothenburg by an American band to date. Granted, one could argue that November 11, 2008 is little late to be taking that swipe, but it's better late than never. Also, belated blossoming has allowed slight outside influences to weasel their way into the At The Gates/Dark Tranquillity blueprint; the hints of (very) modern black metal riffing and Jeff Loomis chug-study have only served to enhance Light This City's attack.
"A Desperate Resolution" is a grin-inducing microcosm for their continental crossbreed. The fist-pounding climax will warm the heart of any longtime melodeath devotee; it's like finally seeing your stubborn Chia Pet sprout a healthy mane and flourish in its greenery. "Wake Me At Sunset" opens with a fantastic, galloping riff that wistfully evokes the vibe projected by the song's title. And the final two songs, "Sand and Snow" and "Self-Portrait," intertwine their melody and ferocity in a firestorm of prototypical bliss, fully embodying the essence of this wing of melodic death. Somber and punishing, yet still retaining the air-guitar joyousness that remains the crux of the style, these torrential tracks are a proud close to an impressive swansong.
Impressive, but far from flawless. Laura Nichols has done little to improve her monotonous razorgargle, and rarely (if ever) displays the earthquaking dynamics that her guitarists have harnessed. Ultra-pedestrian drumming also gives this weaponized skillet a bit of a Teflon coating. If all of the tracks herein contained the vertebreaking groove of "A Desperate Resolution," we'd be handing out serious accolades here.
And that's what's so damn maddening about Stormchaser, and Light This City's career arc as a whole. This shouldn't mark the end of an unremarkable career - this should be the beginning of a brilliant one. We'll never know what type of internal strife led to the band's demise (because the growing amount of hostile scowls being directed at Prosthetic aren't exactly a barometer to judge by), but a killer little spinner like Stormchaser leaves a twinge of sadness nonetheless. The band finally captured their lightning in a bottle, but decided to piss it away. A bittersweet feast, indeed.
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