Review Summary: Fun, fast, and a whole lot of harmonic minor. Ya, it's metal, so what?
Thrash, melodic death, viking, folk, etc. Subgenres of metal usually mean very little to a lot of people, especially those who look to the internet for record reviews (considering the density of indie reviews and few popular bastions outside of lambgoat). Sure, there is a lot of blending together to the unfamiliar ear, and there are specific differences to the finely tuned ear, but overall the differences are not as interesting as the similarities. For some reason, I can't find a song in any metal subgenre other than maybe post-metal that isn't completely dependent on harmonic minor. That #7 scale degree is felt so heavily in thrash, death, black, and even doom metal, that it's hard to get around it. This leads to an overall blurring of the importance of the subgenres, which in turn creates a grey supergenre of just "metal." One such band that sits of heavily on harmonic minor, and also seems to be a blend of multiple subgenres is Light This City. Coming from the Bay Area, which allegedly has a big thrash scene, there is a primary mix of thrash and melodic death, with influences from grind, death, power and, for shi
t, I may even have heard a breakdown because nobody is deaf to metal/hardcore crossovers in late December of 2006. Light This City are dependent on the trappings of metal and all the leading tones that provides. In fact, they're proud of it. So, while their overall sound is homogeneous to most, it's what they do with their predictable scalar choices that makes them interesting.
The most admirable deviation for Light This City is their songwriting. The melodies are incredibly memorable, if derivative, and there are tons of guitar leads to keep the songs incredibly catchy and motivated. Then on top of that, the pace is pretty furious. Facing the Thousand
, though clocking in at 40 minutes, somehow feels shorter because Light This City never relents. On top of that they manage to keep the song section pretty diverse and typically avoid verse-chorus-verse repetition schemes. Not unlike Trophy Scars, Light This City strings together a lot of individual, differing moments through the superb drumming. The drums are incredibly varied and will often move between half time feels with huge double bass fills, to those fast thrash beats, to obviously death-influenced blasting double time feels with huge snare and double bass hits. If the drumming weren't so fluidly transitioned and tastefully varied, I feel like I'd get lost in this album. Thankfully though, the brutal pace and continued harmonic minor sound are rendered more fresh and varied by virtue of the drum patterns and overall songwriting.
I've already mentioned a favorable bit about the technical aspects of this album, but beyond the drumming there is nothing particularly scintillating on an individual level. The guitar, bass, and vocals are standard fare for any thrash or death act, and don't give me any huge "WOW" reactions. However, Light This City does succeed at having an incredibly tight sound. They aren't necessarily crazy musicians in their own rights, but play very well together. The playing here is incredibly clean and every single little pinched harmonic or stop time feels effortless and smooth. This compliment also speaks to the production, which feels very crisp. It doesn't water down the sound, and this album is really densely packed without feeling cluttered. In fact, this is one of the few CDs I have trouble finding human error in. Every song is like a round from a Mac 10.
If you're not a fan of metal, or haven't listened to much metal, don't rag on this album for being a little cliché on the surface. At just a little depth there's a lot to listen to. And more importantly, this album is freakin' fun. The pace is insane, the melodies are fun, and the drumming is awesome. All of these factors may not ensure this album has some amazing artistic value or some staying power against the evolution of metal, but they ensure this album is incredibly visceral and instantly gratifying. Oh ya, and nobody can write a Light This City review without mentioning that the vocalist is a girl, and she screams harder than most "manly" male vocalists. But that too is just part of the fun of it all. Don't tell Pelican or Isis though, they're too busy laying off of the harmonic minor to care.