Despite having a promo MP3 sitting in a folder somewhere for god knows how long, BD decided to wait for the infinitely preferable vinyl version of A Storm Of Light’s most recent opus to arrive before submitting it to a review (curse our elitist nature) and finally it is here, in all its glory.
As this is a vinyl review, let’s kick things off with the exemplary packaging. Like the astonishing Shrinebuilder album, Neurot have gone all out to provide fans with a package which isn’t so much a medium for keeping the discs safe as a work of art in its own right. Featuring different artwork from the CD version (although the cover does appear upon the inner jacket of this gatefold set) and two pieces of swirled vinyl (disc one is red and black while disc 2 is gold and black), this is a beautiful collector’s piece before you even get to the music and you have to wonder why major labels, who have infinitely more cash and resources, rarely apply the same level of care and attention to their artists.
Those who have encountered a storm of light before, or who are familiar with Neurosis will know main man Josh Graham as Neurosis’ visual artist and former member of The Red Sparrowes. As a result you may already expect the music of ASOL to be an intense experience. Veering far closer to the Neurosis end of the spectrum of hard rock than Red Sparrowes ever did, ASOL incorporate a range of influences from swirling psychedelic noise to out-and-out hard rock, complete with tar-thick riffs that could shatter steel. Working with collaborators Jarboe (Swans) and Lydia Lunch as well as Nerissa Campbell (primitive North), ASOL conjure up a beguiling wall of sound which is as hypnotic as it is astonishing. The music slowly draws you in, building to powerful crescendos of noise with Josh’s vocals perfectly augmented by the aforementioned guests who each submit their unique personalities to the power of the music.
With A Storm of light the name is entirely appropriate – the music conjures up wild imagery and emotions. Like all good music it is food for the imagination and is best absorbed unencumbered by the trappings of everyday life. The first time I tried to listen to this while buried in a book, bu after a while the music won out and I had no choice but to sit back, close my eyes and allow the music to wash over me – the sign of a truly special band. ASOL are often described as ‘post-rock’, a term I first encountered when Mogwai leapt upon an unsuspecting scene in the ninties. I didn’t like the term then and it hasn’t grown on me now as it seems to be essentially meaningless. Post rock? What the hell does that even mean (and before you write in, smart asses, I am perfectly familiar with what the actual construction means, I am just unclear as to how it should be applied to music). Rather ASOL live in the same field as Neurosis, The Ocean and other bands which defy any sort of easy categorisation. The music they make is intelligent and awe-inspiring; beautiful in the main but with schizophrenic tendencies. Rather than pigeonhole it, it is better just to acknowledge that some bands are just unique and leave it at that. In ‘Forgive us our trespasses’, ASOL have crafted an album that is powerful, affecting and utterly stunning. Furthermore in the vinyl format it becomes a true collector’s piece thanks to the care and attention put into its packaging and the fact that a gatefold jacket finally presents Josh’s amazing artwork in an appropriate size. Essential listening.