Auternus were a band that inspired leaps of the imagination and adrenalin surges in equal measure with their progressively-minded post rock. Sadly the band unexpectedly collapsed and it has taken some time for Jeff Irvine to return with a new act, the stunning A Light Within. Typically for SonicAbuse we’ve had a hold of this EP for some time now, but time constraints and a memory that would make a 94 year old blush means we are only reviewing this now. Shame on us, for it is an excellent release, building upon the stunning framework laid down by Auternus and even improving upon it.
A three track EP “preface” features the talents of Josh Bennet (guitar), Nick Sloan (Drums), Kyle Brandt (vocals and keys) and Brett Southard (bass) alongside the aforementioned Jeff. The five-piece create epic, spaced-out post rock with hints of progressive, ambient and even the tormented sludge of Neurosis all incorporated into the band’s genetic make-up and the result is an outstanding collision of genres that conspire to leave you awash upon the fringes of your own vivid imagination as the music languidly wraps itself around you. Page # 32 (Morning) introduces us to the band’s sound, a steadily growing throb in the distance aroused by the tolling of a bell and the slow seep of a guitar into your outer consciousness. The band set the bar high, slowly building their sound rather than revealing everything at once, and between the rippling guitar work and somnambulant drums, Kyle’s vocals subtly draw you in, his half-whispered croon a mix of Maynard James Keenan and Chino Moreno, the music sat between Red Sparrowes and the Deftones at their most wilfully out there. There are no massive explosions here, no wild guitar pyrotechnics, just a gradual build up of tension, a relentless march towards a darker, deeper place than you have yet visited. There is beauty here, but like the beauty of a rose it carries thorns, and the hint of danger is never far away. Despite a seven-minute run time, the track is over before you know it, lost in the sound of the approaching tide and then we’re into the second track, ‘page #18 (grin)’ which cuts across the listener like the cold breeze from a car window as you try to get some sleep. Kyle’s voice becomes increasingly mired in distortion as the music stirs itself into molten gobbets of churning riffs before settling once more into a subtly woven-dreamscape that haunts your waking moments – the closing drones slowly dissolving into a sample from 2001 that is uniquely terrifying in its emotion-free calm.
The final track appears even as the listener is fighting down the hard knot of terror floating in the pit of the stomach inspired by Hal’s soulless chatter. It begins quietly, but something isn’t right, and as Kyle’s voice screams out of the darkness, it is clear that the slow unravelling of the senses hinted at in ‘grin’ has reached its fruition. The result is a track that claws and spits its insanity from out of a blackened cell once more recalling the Deftones at their most experimental. There is real fire here, smoke and burning too, and it’s almost a relief as the riffs become increasingly heavy, sending out their own searing heat and engaging a fight or flight response that leaves you staggering from the blazing building, alive, unharmed, but somehow enlivened by an experience that can only be shared by those who have undergone the same experience.
As you’ve probably seen from a review that lapses into metaphor and simile with distressing regularity, A light within is not really music to be described in conventional terms. It is music that fires the senses and demands an individual interpretation from all who listen to it – your interpretation is as liable to be accurate as mine – and this is where A light within excel. Like reading a good book (before a film version comes along and leaves you forever stuck with the image of a pampered Hollywood superstar in place of a once imagined character), A light within don’t offer simple and obvious exposition, instead they take you to a place and leave you to fill in the blanks, an immensely difficult trick that few bands can successfully pull off. The music is a muse, a source of boundless inspiration even as it is, itself, inspired and there is no doubt that the band’s first full-length outing will be magical indeed. A light within is essential listening for anyone enchanted by the magical power of music to excite the senses and comes very highly recommended indeed.
Did we get it right? Listen now and find out!