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Album Review: New Light Choir – Torchlight

New Light Choir of Raleigh, North Carolina is a tricky band to categorize. They’ve come a long way from their “Witchcraft on speed” roots but are still largely defined by nasally vocals, wispy 70s riff work, and occasional acoustic layers. The duo’s second album, Volume II (2014), muddled the formula with gradual helpings of black metal and punk influence. Torchlight goes all out as nasty tremolo guitars and grim atmospherics are free to run rampant through expanded song lengths and sturdier compositions

The resulting blend is surprisingly consistent, even if it is an acquired taste. The lo-fi production serves as a steady bridge between styles, but the vocal performance is the album’s true unifier. It’d be understandable if some growls or rasps were thrown in during the harshest sequences, but it’s clean singing all the way through. Much like the recent outings by Satan’s Host, it should feel uncanny but somehow never does. Even if one doesn’t like the nasally style, you gotta admit that it fits.

The only real nitpick for this album is its backloaded track listing. The bursts of extreme excitement that come with “Psalm 6” would’ve made it an effective opener, and tracks like the murky “Moondawn Mirage III” and the fittingly triumphant “Last March” efficiently sustain the momentum. The first half is serviceable, but I can’t help but wonder if Torchlight would’ve more effective as an EP.

Overall, New Light Choir’s third album takes some getting used to, but its blackened proto-metal style is something to behold. Psychedelic black metal isn’t necessarily uncommon, but it is truly rare to see a group that is able to mix elements like this and keep the spirit of its roots. It’ll take a little more songwriting development for this to go beyond novel curiosity, but at least there’s finally something that fans of Dunbarrow and Nachtmystium can agree upon!

Highlights:
“Psalm 6”
“Moondawn Mirage III”
“Last March”
“Stardust and Torchlight”

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