NEW LIGHT CHOIR - Volume II
The line between genius and insanity is a very thin one, as is proven by North Carolina metal duo New Light Choir. The band name would let you expect some esoteric cult movement, and the two short-haired, grown up musicians look only like metalheads because they are wearing genre t-shirts. But maybe itís this strange and weirdly innocuous setup that maybe, just maybe hides something really wicked underneath that makes the discovery of the duoís second album so intriguing and eventually rewarding.
John Niffenegger sings and plays guitar and bass, Chris Dalton drums. Aged between forty and fifty years, the both have played already in other bands, but itís New Light Choir where they really try to do their very own thing. So many bands claim just that, but in the case of NLC, this might just be true for once. The sound is very unusual. The production feels slightly muggy, giving the whole endeavour a very underground feeling. But thatís not what I meant with unusual. In an interview, the band said that they never have to care if their music is "too metal" or "not metal enough", and itís walking on that thin line between metal and not metal that they invent a very unique sound.
The short opener Higher Fire (Proximity) doesnít even clock in at three minutes, yet shows immediately what New Light Choir is. The guitar driven intro is very fierce, festive and full of Northern pathos, before one minute into the song, the song becomes quite groovy, and Niffeneggerís high vocal performance comes as a huge surprise. One might think that they unearthed a very young Geddy Lee. This is also the reason why the duo is often compared to Seventies Rush. The guitar chord progression after two minutes even shows a black metal influence, and believe it or not, New Light Choir like to compare themselves to Darkthrones, when it comes to the energy, not the actual sound.
The following All I Need might be something like a ballad (All I need is your love... hello Beatles!), but instead it feels very gloomy and dark. The guitar delivers strange chords, the wistful vocal performance is really touching, and not only will you never again forget this song, but you will even catch yourself singing it! Frost And Fire is once again a fast and furious piece of proto metal that nonetheless is catchy as hell. With April Witch, we get another healthy dose of occult tinged metal, in the very special and idiosyncratic delivery of New Light Choir.
The remaining tracks are just as fun, but I wonít go into any more details to keep the review concise enough. Lately the USA has spawned some bands that really gave a new face to heavy metal: Slough Feg, Pharaoh, Dawnbringer, Aktor,... New Light Choir see themselves in that same category, and yet they are also different. First of all they are until now a studio project, for lack of band members. Secondly, their metal but not metal sound is very unique. There are elements of proto metal, progressive rock, NWOBHM, black metal and punk, and all of this coalesces into an impossibly homogenous sound. I would not be surprised if some people really hate this music, as it is so different from what we have come to expect from metal these days. But I found myself really loving this album. So yes, it is a bit short, but at least it has no unnecessary bits and pieces. The production is also maybe not entirely up to modern standards, but it further underlines the bandís healthy adherence to a musical underground that still needs to be discovered. Volume II is a really special effort by a really special band.