Anthroscene is the latest from experimental heavy group A Storm of Light. The album is released in the US on 5 October through Translation Loss and is the band’s fifth overall LP. You can also pick it up in Europe via Consouling Sounds and in Japan by Daymare.
Leading the charge for the new record is the track “Prime Time”, a tune that speaks to the collective’s experimental tendencies and penchant for exploring important social issues. With flashes of classic progressive rock (think a deeper, darker Roger Waters) and contemporary heavy metal, the song is a spacious and intelligent exploration of dying dreams and a dying world.
With haunting keyboard passages, harrowing guitar riffs and a vocal performance that alternately stills the blood flow and quickens the heart, “Prime Time” is one of the quintessential opening tracks in heavy rock.
Chris Common, Dan Hawkins, and Domenic Seita join Josh Graham on this crusade for order in an order-less world, the members united in the cause for advancing the cause and thought-provoking music.
Graham recently spoke with PopMatters about “Prime Time” and the band’s decision to advance its style after its previous release, Nation to Flames.
Tell me a little bit about the origins of “Prime Time?”
That song has a lot of history to it. It originally began as a rough sketch for a project I was working on with Chris Pennie (ex-Coheed and Cambria), which unfortunately fizzled due to scheduling. About a year later, I rediscovered what we’d started, and took the first few lines of lyrics, and jump-started the new writing process. Everything began with that cycling piano line, and from there, the song really started to form.
When did it present itself as the opening cut for the album?
While we were writing, the band had a shared online playlist. The songs were continually updated as we progressed through seemingly infinite versions of each track. Over the course of that entire process, “Prime Time” was always first. Right before mastering, we toyed around the idea of placing it elsewhere on the record, but it really seemed to set a mood, while establishing the instrumentation/vibe of the record.
The vocal performance is eerie and dramatic. Was that a difficult one to get down?
Thanks. Yeah, that one was tough. I went through a couple of versions of the beginning, trying to get that drugged out kind of malaise feeling, without it feeling forced, overdramatic, or conceded. Once the song kicks in it was pretty straightforward, though the choruses require a lot of breath. Hopefully, I don’t pass out live.
True story: I passed/blacked out on the song “Fall” while we were playing it. First, we were playing, then I basically woke up on stage (fortunately I was still standing), and was like, “What’s going on here? I am waking up…oh ok…oh wait… I am waking up on stage, and we’re playing a song. Fuck.” I missed a verse on that one.
The lyrics on this release touch on a number of contemporary issues and yet, at the same time, I had flashbacks of the early Black Sabbath albums, stuff like that: the world’s crumbling, etc.
Oh, that’s awesome. I was just listening to a bunch old Sabbath yesterday. Ozzy is a great lyricist. In fifth grade, I had a cassette alarm clock. You could cue up a song and have a track start when the alarm triggered. I had it set to the song Diary of a Madman for what feels like the entire school year. Ha! Maybe that’s where it all went wrong.
On Anthroscene, many of the lyrics are my personal feelings about the decaying state of – everything I guess: the current political nightmare, the evolution of society through technology and social media, climate change, climate change denial, fear, isolationism, etc. etc. Lyrically though, I wanted a decent chunk of the record to be more surreal; more of a current self-portrait of humanity told through a haze of drugs and paranoia. “Prime Time” hits a little closer to home though. I have people in my life who struggle with prescription opiates, and it kills me. It’s almost impossible to navigate.
It’s interesting, too, that you’re mixing up the notion of what heavy music is supposed to sound like. There’s nothing sacrificed in that department, but the production, writing, etc. avoids the same old approach for metal songs.
That’s awesome to hear, thanks a lot. In the five years since Nations to Flames came out, I’ve gotten heavily into soundtrack music, and have been releasing more experimental material under the name IIVII. Dan and Domenic both listen to (and make) a massive spectrum of music as well. I believe that exploration informed this record quite a bit, resulting in expanded knowledge of composition, instrumentation / classical / avant-garde, etc…. and how something can be brutally heavy without guitars or vocals.
After Nations, we were all stumped on where to go next, it was like…. “Well, do we ditch the keyboards now, and go full on Slayer?” As much as we love Slayer, we knew that wasn’t really the right direction for us (and guitar solos might be a problem), as we wanted to push our own boundaries, ignore what was popular, and just make something that felt right/unique. We’ve always had keyboards; however, they were previously more drone/noise elements. This record pushes those elements into critical parts of the song structures, which for us is a big change.