There’s a reason why I sport A Light Within t shirt wherever and whenever possible, and that is because, simply, they are one of the best underground acts currently emerging from the US. Capable of blending the most subtle and sublime of music, they have taken the post-metal genre and made it their own, drawing out the elements that make acts like Mogwai, Slint, Isis and Red Sparrowes so enchanting and adding their own spin to events, not least thanks to the stunning vocals of Kyle Brandt whose voice soars over the material like a majestic bird of prey in flight. ‘Body matter’ is the band’s second full-length EP, following on from only the most tantalising of glimpses with the ‘preface’ EP and the ‘page #51 (between shores)’, and it easily matches the early promise shown by those wondrous releases.
Opening with the brief, scene-setting prologue ‘Torn page #21’, the EP starts properly with the stunning ‘page #22 no charge’ which sounds like the Deftones jamming with neurosis. It opens with a sublime post-rock riff, all shimmering guitar and somnolent percussion before slowly building into a monster that aches with unexpressed emotion and frayed hopes. It’s beautiful yet heavy, stylistically familiar and yet innovative and, over it all, Kyle stands, his voice guiding us through the peaks and troughs of the music, only for the song to end leaving us feeling suddenly bereft. Next up is ‘page 51 between shores’ which we reviewed thus “A slow-building piece of music, ‘…between shores’ rises out of a heat haze of ambient noise to take in elements from a wide range of genres. In the slow, measured verse you’ll hear elements of the grandiose gothic rock of Sisters of Mercy, in the build-up that may (or may not) be a chorus, you’ll hear the towering sludge of neurosis and in the extended outro you’ll witness the band tripping the light fantastic through the spacey post-rock of Mogwai and Red Sparrowes” when we first received the track. My original opinion has not changed, suffice it to say that t’s still a track of stunning power, familiarity having done nothing to dull its impact. ‘Page #29 world through the window’ opens with dense chords before Kyle’s voice floats into view and the listener is reminded of the Smashing Pumpkins at their most oblique (think the epic, sky-scraping prog of ‘ghost and the glass children’) and we are reminded, once again, of the power that Nick Sloan can bring to bear on his drums, whilst guitarists Jeff Irvine and Josh Bennett carve out castles in the sky with their beautiful guitar figures.
The short ‘Page #13 to have to hold’ opens with some desolate piano work, and echoes of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘ghosts’ project are apparent in the ambient feel of the track. Kyle’s voice is fragile and yet full of power and the track is unbearably beautiful, the music washing over the listener and evoking, unbidden, nostalgic memories. It is a truly stunning piece of music that underscores the amazing power that music can hold over a listener when played with such passion and depth. The EP closes with the epic, eight minute piece ‘page #47-48 Glaso’. A slow-building track, the band use the expanded run time to deliver one final mesmerizing piece of music that deserves to be filed alongside the likes of Tool, A perfect circle and Neurosis in any and every music fan’s collection. It is a stunning conclusion, a devastating assertion of the band’s ability and it perfectly closes an EP that stands as one of the year’s best releases – it is not lightly I compare any release favourably to Tool, and yet A Light Within are one of the very few bands that deserve to stand in that prestigious company.
We get many bands here at SonicAbuse and many of them are excellent. Some, however, become firm favourites, guaranteed to be played regularly and to sit proudly on the shelves alongside bands that have long been part of the fabric of my life. A light within are one such band. How far they’ll be able to reach the audience they deserve in these days of fans being unable to see the wood for the trees remains unclear, but in a perfect world the band would be gracing the cover of every rock and metal magazine from here to China. What marks them out? There is the precision of their playing, the power in Kyle’s vocals, the near-perfect production and the beautiful artwork, and yet many bands have these things. No, what marks A Light within out as truly special is that unseen, impossible to define quality that sees a group of individuals come together and somehow craft songs that truly matter. There is power, anger, beauty, love and loss in these stunning songs and the EP flows beautifully from start to finish. Almost impossibly good, A light within have laid the foundations of an amazing career and their next work cannot come soon enough.