Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Predatory Light - MMXIV

Most band names are just empty bravado, but that’s not the case with Predatory Light. The band’s debut demo “MMXIV” is fantastically transfixing black/doom metal that you will want to consume you as you sit quietly, frozen in place like a frightened animal. This music is so addicting that I always listen to it multiple times. Always. Granted, the two songs total less than 18 minutes, but this release still has a gripping and iron-clad sense of completeness that refuses interruptions. Blending black and doom metal, Predatory Light isn’t doing much new, but they are doing everything much better and more dynamically than the vast majority of their peers. A fair benchmark for comparison is Negative Plane - take the same top-tier quality and similar lush cascading reverb, but drop the hints of surf rock in favor of a more ponderous mood that is elegantly feathered with touches of dissonance.

An excellent drummer can make an enormous difference in almost any type of band, and Predatory Light is thankfully no exception. The percussion’s expressive intensity accents the guitar’s moods while simultaneously breathing life into repetition, making the riffs insist on being heard over and over again. This concussive variation gives Predatory Light free reign to marinate in mood and atmosphere without sacrificing even a scintilla of excitement, which is an incredibly rare and special combination. Even the exemplary plodding riff in the second song “Spiritual Flesh,” which goes on for over three minutes, is fantastic due in large part to the varied percussion. When that mesmerizing riff switches over to clean guitars, the drums keep adding flavor, making the return to distortion feel absolutely necessary. Small changes like these are clear signs of the band’s excellent overall songwriting intelligence.

Having a the ability to write an absolutely crushing riff like the one in “Spiritual Flesh” is a pretty great trick for a demo, and even for a full-length. But “MMXIV” is so much more than that. Despite what you may expect from doom metal influences, this striking demo still is peppered with vibrant energy and is even up-tempo at times. Take for example how the massive speed jump at about 1:50 into “Changing Skins” builds on the slow sinuous melodies it follows. Bold tempo changes throughout the demo make for an experience more like a hazy fever than the typical walk into a murky cave. Single notes blur into one another, yet each riff is distinct and dynamically segues into the next. Helping to tie these riffs together is the warm and round bass. Much clearer than the shimmering guitars, the bass also soaks into the mix as a superb mediator between the distant melodies and the immediate punch of the percussion. This is in contrast to the vocals, which play a minimal but apt role; the low growls and muted screams are almost background accents.

By excelling simultaneously in both atmosphere and energy, Predatory Light’s masterful debut demo is immensely satisfying and will leave you eager for more.

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