The world will end. The world will end. The world will end. Not with a whimper but a long, drawn-out, human-inflicted death rattle. …Or so Anthrocene, the fifth-full length from ex-Neurosis visual artist Josh Graham’s A Storm of Light, will have you believe.
While I’m to understand that Graham never played a note on any of the Neurosis records to which he contributed artwork, both Anthroscene and Neurosis’s most recent record suggest he had a profound effect on that band’s sound. Although the Oakland outfit have never been known for their dulcet tones, Fires Within Fires (2016) constituted their rawest effort in quite some time—arguably signaling a throwback to the earlier, more abrasive days of albums like Souls at Zero (1992) and Enemy of the Sun (1993). Yet, while those albums impressed by the sheer weight of their unprecedented and unadulterated ferocity, Fires Within Fires failed to account for everywhere the band had been since. The layered melodies and emotive tonalities that rendered 2012’s Honor Found In Decay so haunting were essentially absent from its follow-up. Anthroscene, however, finds them in full effect.
The album is a slow, unrelenting burn. It is an overtly political effort, with each of its eight trudging tracks fueled by an undeniable anger. Its ire is directed at the human impact upon both the environment and one another—with Graham spitting some particularly spiteful venom in the direction of Conservative politics and the United States on late apogee “Dim”. Yet Anthroscene‘s overall aesthetic is not one of fury, but rather one of resignation. It doesn’t provide a call to arms so much as a wake-up call—begging the listener to look around and realize the levels to which the world and their reality has sunk. Its message is not, however, one of apathy or hopelessness. Instead, it grapples with the realization that it’s too late to try and prevent such a state from occurring, and that instead, we must fight our way out of it.
Anthroscene isn’t just pure Neurosis worship, however. Kylesa perhaps provides the album’s other main point of reference. The record is rife with a sludgy hypnotism, with ex-Mouth of the Architect and These Arms Are Snakes drummer Chris Common’s persistent rumbling bringing to mind the rumblings of Carl McGinley and his collaborators on albums like Static Tensions (2009) and Spiral Shadow (2010). There’s also a constant air of Ænima-era Tool about the rhythm section—especially in the grinding, low-end slides supplied by bassist Domenic Seita (ex-Tombs). The opening moments of “Prime Time” even bring Marilyn Manson to mind, and the record—which seems to owe as much to alternative as it does to post-metal—touches on such diverse acts as Killing Joke, Ministry and The Melvins before the ethereal climax of “Rosebud” fades out.
The variation shown by A Storm of Light on Anthroscene makes for one of the most compelling records of its kind in some time. Its message may be dire, but it serves as a timely reminder that we can no longer afford to ignore the perpetual violence that goes on around us every day—however incendiary or unstoppable it may seem.