SUNLIGHT AT SECONDHAND: NIGHTS LIKE THESE BRING THE BRUTAL
Nights Like These are pissed at you, dude. You judged them because of their band name, you judged them because of their hair cuts, and worst of all – you judged them because of the fucking record label they’re on. That is very un-metal of you, dude. And to punish you, they’ve gone and released their sophmore album, Sunlight at Secondhand – an album that is at once seething and transcendental.
Yeah yeah yeah, Victory sucks, and yes, this has one of the shitty Victory stickers on it that compares this band to other bands – a sticker that, in this case, is particularly nonsensical (“Like their southern brethern Mastodon and Between the Buried and Me, Nights Like These churn out another metal masterpiece for 2007!” goes the poorly worded sentence – I’m sure some PR genius just meant to compare all three bands and thereby entice potential buyers, but mostly, the sticker will just leave most people wondering “What metal masterpiece did Mastodon release in 2007?”). But, like Between the Buried and Me, this band sounds nothing like your average Victory band – some shitty post-hardcore like A Day to Remember, this is not.
Instead, we get prog-infused hardcore of the most challenging, vicious variety – think Converge with songs that are three to five minutes instead of one or two. Thick, thudding, elephantine breakdowns, like the ones on “Heart of the Wound” and “Samsara,” appear seemingly out of nowhere, and consequently induce shock and terror in the listener; vocalist Billy Bottom screams himself hoarse while the world crumbles and burns around him. The appropriately titled “Claw Your Way Out” is like a predator’s soundtrack for the hunt; I’m pretty sure some enterprising YouTuber could synch it up with some footage from Jaws to create something horrifying.
There are quieter moments, too, like the celtic-flavored guitars that temporarily appear during “Samsara,” or the whale-call guitars of instrumental interlude “Collective Unconscious,” or the interlude towards the end of “Empty Lungs.” These moments are truly beautiful, even when Bottom keeps raging over them – they leave one with the feeling, corny though it may sound, of floating on your back, staring up at the stars, pondering the vast cosmos of which you can never really know anything.
In fact, there’s hardly a weak moment in the forty plus minutes of the disc – save Bottom’s sparse use of clean vocals on “Black the Sun.” The production, by Chris Owen (his other credits are with bands I’m not familiar with – but I’m assuming he’s not the kid who played the Shermanitor in the American Pie films), is pretty raw, more Ballou than Dutkiewicz, and while I really, truly appreciate the lack of auto-tune, Bottom sounds off-key, warbly, and whiney, and proves unable to really sing the way, say, Jacob Bannon does on the gorgeous “Grim Heart/Black Rose.” But that’s, like, fifteen seconds from the whole album, and honestly, the more you listen to it, the less distracting it becomes.
It’s rare to come across an album this achingly beautiful, this rabidly furious, this poetically passionate. Buy it.
(four and a half out of five horns)