Review Summary: The beginning of a short-lived band that showed flashes of brilliance from the start.
Coming out of the Bay Area that was the breeding ground for several great thrash metal acts, a young group of friends (still in high school!) got together to form Light This City. Influenced by bay area thrash bands like Testament and Exodus but also by melodic death metal like At The Gates and Carcass, they’ve created they’re own metal hybrid which can best be described as melodic thrash. With all those influences in the mix, the most obvious is “Slaughter of the Soul”-era At The Gates and on this album they pay homage to their heroes with an awe-inspiring cover of “Cold.” Originally released on indie label Reflections of Ruin records, Light This City’s final label Prosthetic decided to re-release The Hero Cycle over a year after the band broke up in 2008.
Starting with the obvious: they have a female vocalist. The first time I heard of this band was when Laura Nichol appeared on Revolver’s “Hottest chicks in Metal” and Laura was wearing a Carcass T-shirt! What really caught my attention was that this band was inspired by At The Gates and that Laura’s main vocal influence is Tomas Lindberg. Unfortunately, due solely to fact the she is a woman, Laura had to hear the comparisons to Angela Gossow during this band’s entire run, it’s unfortunate because that’s a ridiculous comparison, the only similarities between them is that they are female vocalists for metal bands. Although their vocals are probably equally monotonous, Angela’s voice is much deeper and masculine.
Album opener “Apostate” sets the bar pretty high for the rest of the album, with a static fuzz intro that recalls At The Gates’ “Blinded by Fear” (not a coincidence I’m sure) Laura comes in with a roar and some very interesting lyrics:
“You used to spread your wings only when no one was looking,
And when you finally trusted me enough to reveal them I slowly ripped them off.
What have I done?”
The lyrics aren’t perfectly intelligible in parts but do yourself a favor and look them up as they are deeply personal and emotional(if somewhat cryptic). It’s fascinating when you realize that a teenage girl came up all of this because it seems surprisingly mature, more so than people twice her age and with long, established careers. Laura’s vocals, which are a mix between Trevor Strnad’s (Black Dahlia Murder) cleaner vocals and Tomas Lindberg are a quality that while giving the band a certain uniqueness also bring it down a bit due to the lack of variety. In no way are the vocals bad, but they get a bit tedious over the course of the album so it’s a very welcome change on “Weight of Glory” where another(male) vocalist comes in and Laura displays her clean vocals, this vocal variety makes it one of the best tracks and certainly the most memorable.
The band has talent all-around and drummer Ben Murray shows tons of ability behind the kit, his drumming is definitely what keeps these songs together but the guitar is what makes this album great. Guitarist Steven Shirley lays down some very catchy riffs throughout the album, every track has great guitar work and having it placed so high in the mix with very little bass highlights it even further. Though The Hero Cycle is extremely melodic and catchy, it loses none of its heaviness in the process.
Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, Light This City certainly doesn’t overstay it’s welcome on their debut and they make it an entertaining experience cramming in many memorable riffs all the way through. Even after several listens, there is a certain “sameness” in this album, it is consistently great although it’s difficult to differentiate between tracks. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the songs are equally good so it would be like complaining about having steak and lobster for dinner everyday: repetitive but good.
The Weight of Glory