Lightfoil - Hierarchy - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Lightfoil - Hierarchy

by Jeff Penczak Rating:7 Release Date:2014-07-07

This Chicago quintet’s debut album already shows signs of maturity and confidence, no doubt bolstered by the presence of bassist Cory Osborne from nugaze labelmates Panda Riot, whose Northern Automatic Music was one of last year’s biggest pleasures. Then there’s the guiding hand of heavy metal kingpin Sanford Parker, who’s produced, mixed, and/or engineered hundreds of metal recordings in the last decade.

An unusual pedigree, perhaps, but one which yields rewards immediately with the shimmering waterfall of sound on ‘Polar Waves’. Vocalist Jane Zabeth could be mixed up front more, but the cascading guitars of Neil Yodnane and Zeeshan Abbasi swirl around her to create a tornado of metallic sounds.

Osborne and drummer John Rungger propel ‘Last One’ into New Order territory (always a plus, although Zabeth again is sadly buried in the mix). By the time we reach ‘Addict’, frustration turns to disappointment as it’s become clear Parker clearly has no idea what to do with the vocalist and has buried her so far in the surrounding mayhem as to relegate her to the parking lot. We’re left with perhaps the first heavy metal nugaze album, a new subgenre I’m not sure I’m ready to embrace.

‘Diastolic’ and the pure adrenalin rush of the anthemic ‘Hideaway’ improve matters immensely by coalescing the band’s sound into a finely honed machine, with Zabeth moving front-and-center to float Kate Bush-like among the flickering wall of sound behind her. Sanford is clearly in his element with the crunchy stomp of ‘Mock Sun’, and the tension between Zabeth’s soaring, almost operatic vocals and the pulsating force of nature behind her is refreshing, although the 90 seconds of dead-air filler at the end should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Frustrating, exciting, refreshing, promising… A lot of adjectives for a debut album worth investigating, despite a few reservations. At times, they almost feel like two different acts – and a couple of the more ethereal tracks literally called ‘(no title)’ emphasize the band’s Cocteau Twins side.

I would like to hear more of this and a little less of the overwhelming metallic crunch next time (to wit, ‘alovestory’.) So a reserved thumbs up with a recommendation to get a producer more attuned to incorporating Zabeth into the arrangements and less focused on bombast.

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