11/20/2020 - Review by: Vinaya Saksena
Thick doom riffs, bluesy female vox, psych touches & biting social commentary
Does the world really need another doom band? Especially one anywhere near the stoner-ish end of the genre? Given the ridiculous amount of growth the genre has undergone in recent years- at least in terms of sheer numbers- it's easy to think not. Even more so when you consider the number of newish bands that seem to bring very similar and predictable things to the table, with nothing much to distinguish them from dozens- maybe even hundreds- of others. But when this type of music is done well, it can work wonders. The key is obviously bringing some special x-factor to it.
NYC psychedelic doom quartet Lightmaker seem to have taken this into account before going to the trouble of putting together their self-titled debut. Much of what makes this band stand out in the seemingly endless sea of similarly styled bands can be attributed to the vocal and lyrical contributions of frontwoman Jade Morgan, though the rest of the band does their part to make sure that everything is done to a standard that meets and in some cases exceeds expectations for a band operating along the stoner/doom axis.
Morgan's vocals are vaguely bluesy in their approach, and while unflashy, they show an impressive degree of control throughout. In fact, that's something that could be said of the rest of the band's performances as well--they can all clearly perform their parts flawlessly, but there is little that could be considered showing off. Guitarist Jack Woodward demonstrates himself to be a capable player, but usually does so by way of well-thoughtout riffs and transitions rather than flashy playing. (There is only one full-blown solo on the album, but it's a pretty damn good one, and of course doesn't overstay its welcome.) It also helps that the production is thick, warm, and clear with just enough room ambience to give it an appropriately cavernous tone.
The band commands the listener's attention right from the pounding accents that kick off opening cut "Hanging Crown," a lumbering beast of a tune that builds, ebbs and flows effectively on a rock solid base of sludgy but tight power chords, while Morgan issues a forceful lyrical warning to those who have abused power for too long. From here on, the band continually- and, for the most part, successfully- does a musical balancing act, piling on the thick, thunderous power chords, but also making sure that there are mellow, moody, and otherwise interesting non-heavy bits to keep things from getting monotonous. You know... dynamics. While much of the album does stay in a fairly slow tempo range, there are a couple of more uptempo numbers- namely the strident, swinging "Sweet Fire" and "Rise To Light," with its bouncy, almost funky rhythm. It's one big, chunky riff sandwhich after another, with just enough musical changeups to keep it engaging and Morgan conveying vibes of impending doom- whether it be on a societal or personal level. But the feast suddenly takes a more caustic turn on the short, minimalistic closer "Mournin' Blues," which finds Morgan seemingly reaching the limits of her patience with mankind, banging her head against the wall until it cracks wide open, and letting its contents spill all over you. (Well, not literally. It primarily seems to be a rant against unthinking political partisanship.)
Like I said, if you are going to have any hope of standing out in a genre as overcrowded as doom is getting, you need to bring something unique to the table. Lightmaker have this, mainly in the form of Morgan's biting social commentary and bluesy vocal delivery. It also helps that the band- unlike some others- has the ability to craft doom tuneage that isn't overreliant on volume and extreme sonic sludginess. A band can't do it all on their first album, but this is a damn fine start, with a clear sense of identity and simple but utterly effective delivery. I doubt you'll hear much better in the genre this year, and it will be exciting to see what this band does next. Definitely one to keep an eye on.
Note: in addition to digital formats, the album has been released on vinyl in limited quantities by the band and Dark Hedonistic Union Records, which is handling European distribution for it. However, the special pressing issued by DHU already appears to be sold out as of this writing.
Recommended for fans of: Fans of well-constructed doom that doesn't rely excessively on fuzz
ALL REVIEWS FOR: LIGHTMAKER
ALL INTERVIEWS FOR: LIGHTMAKER
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE THESE DOOM/STONER STYLED RELEASES: