Many things came into my head while I was listening to this album, which is a good thing, but I cannot accept the claim that New Light Choir “are devoid of the trappings of retro worship”. I’d agree that “retro worship” is too strong a phrase but essentially what I heard here was an interesting collection of classic rock song structures. “Grand Architect”, which opens the album, had a psychedelic element which reminded me a little of Hawkwind. I think part of that impression came from hearing the singer’s voice, which is clear and echoes outward as if appealing to a wider universe. The subject matter is related to the cosmos. To the credit of this band, the songs themselves are energetic and breezy. “Firebird” sweeps us along like a Motörhead track before slowing down into darker and more melancholic territory. But ultimately this is hard rock with a cosmic twist.
As I listened to “Omens”, I felt a mild black metal shiver, noting that one of their stated influences is Darkthrone. The similarity is, I guess, the coldness, as the fluid rock riffs belie that genre. The singer’s voice is distinctive and little bit indie. They draw attention to the strange lyrics, but they’re quite high in the range and I found them grating. “Psalm 6” suggests something religion-orientated, which it isn’t. It’s in fact the darkest and most black metal so far thanks to the persistent drum, and fast and withering guitar line. The vocalist preaches his stuff. “Golden Ring” is then too wordy. There was always the threat of this, but at least instrumentally it has colour and power. Now and again it will drift off into atmospheric passages, which work very well. The start of “Last March” has drive and purpose. “From the cold grasp of winter we fight to be free”, announces the singer defiantly. This song has impressive pomp without being mind-blowing. The electronic wind down makes a welcome change. “Stardust and Torchlight” then takes us back to the style of “Grand architect” and captures the essence of parts of this album – cosmic, psychedelic energy in a classic rock framework with a lyric didacticism from a higher plane.
For me there was a disconnect between the energy of the instrumentals and the vocals. I preferred the instrumentals to the vocals but couldn’t place them together in the same time or place. This is surprising as New Light Choir are a duo, so I’d have expected greater tightness and co-ordination.
(6/10 Andrew Doherty)