LIGHT THIS CITY SING UNSPECTACULAR SWANSONG ON STORMCHASER
Of the startling number of bands who build a following, get signed and are allowed to successfully pursue their dream of becoming a touring/recording artist, many don’t make it too far. Some don’t progress much further and get dropped after an album or two, while some grow too stressed from the fatigue-inducing schedule and straining lifestyle, ultimately splitting up as a result. Such is the case involving the Bay Area act Light This City. After three well-received albums drummer Ben Murray and vocalist Laura Nichol could no longer accept the rigorous schedule and exhausting requirements of being in a band. As such, Stormchaser is the last CD we will see under this moniker, released posthumously by Prosthetic Records after the band’s breakup. While this is a shame considering how far this band has progressed in the past five years, it isn’t as though they’ve ever offered up a legitimate reason to be granted the status of “legendary” or even “memorable,” and unfortunately for them, Stormchaser is no different.
Light This City’s blend of traditional thrash, speed and death metal mixed with both NWOBHM and the melodeath of acts such as Dark Tranquility has produced some truly great moments in each of the band’s releases, but the band has never put forth anything that could be construed as classic. In fact, listening to an entire LP can be somewhat of a chore and what’s required of the listener is to wait for that one moment in each song where something really cool happens. More often than not you’ll be rewarded but it translates into all-too-brief passages instead of transcendent blocks of greatness.
Each player in Light This City is impressively proficient. The drumming is able and workmanlike, adapting handily to changes in tempo and blasting through the accelerated riffing, easily keeping pace with the nimble fretwork of guitarists Ryan Hansen and Brian Forbes. Remember these names; whatever project with which they sign on next will be deserving of your attention. The soloing on Stormchaser is absolutely marvelous. Undeniable proof of this comes with the shredding outro on “Beginning With Release,” the third track in this collection and the point where this set truly takes off. It’s followed by the bloodthirsty, go-for-the-throat riffing of “Firehaven,” which features guest vocals by none other than Testament’s Chuck Billy, nearly outmatched by the vicious yell of Nichol. There’s no enhancement of the vocals through effects; there’s no need. I dare say there are few men in metalcore who could go toe to toe with Nichol’s ability to fray the ends of your trembling earbulbs. Her tenacity is remarkable and her stamina is unmatched. That being said, there isn’t much dynamic to her approach and, sadly, it becomes more than a little monotonous after a while.
While there’s plenty of listening pleasure to be gained from arrangements like “The Collector, Part 1: Muse” with its grinding breakdown and the companion piece, “The Collector, Part 2: Donor,” which features a contribution by The Funeral Pyre vocalist John Strachan it takes a number of listens to grow accustomed to this group’s sound and even then you wind up waiting for those individual instances of greatness. In the end it’s a wash. While Nichol and Murray have mentioned continuing on with something less heavy and considerably more “local” to their area I will be watching for the next project that includes the other players. With the amount of experience they have under their belts and the chops displayed on Stormchaser and the other albums, it would be a safe bet to assume their next project will be one worthy of more notice than Light This City ever managed to achieve.