Year of No Light

Year of No Light have been around for a while now. When I listened to 2006’s Nord, I thought it was a competent but unremarkable sludge album. Ausserwelt came out four years later, and their sound had evolved to more than make up for the time elapsed. While that album wasn’t perfect, it contained moments of true transcendence. The first half of “Perséphone II” is one of the best, most beautiful builds in post-metal to date. I have not had a chance to listen to Vampyr, the band’s soundtrack for a silent film of the same name from 1932 released earlier this year. Now on Debemur Morti, home to fellow countrymen Blut Aus Nord among others, Tocsin comes as a welcome surprise–a smoldering black pit of an album, vastly darker than the band’s previous work.

Tocsin exhibits several fundamental and compelling changes in the band’s sound. As on Ausserwelt, the raw sludge aggression of the first album is almost completely gone. Ausserwelt also featured more doom-oriented riffs as opposed to its predecessor, which was all sludge. The change is a subtle one, but important, and it continues on Tocsin to the point that the sludge influence is very much in the background when it’s even present at all. The riffs are thick, monolithic, and dark. The dirty, overdriven production suggests what physical damage these sounds might inflict on whatever space they’re played in, with less consideration given to the ability to distinguish between each instrument, note, or drum hit. The reverb-soaked drums contribute to a more doomy feel by the suggestion of cavernous space. The distortion, in addition to what I think is a first-time-ever use of blast beats, blackens things up as well.

Song-for-song, Tocsin does not start off on the most compelling note. The first two tracks, while passable, seem to be more exercises in repetition and don’t come off as particularly emotional or atmospheric. Opener “Tocsin” sets the stage well with its slow pace and heavy riffs, but at almost 14 minutes it outstays its welcome, the length and repetition doing more harm than good. However, the third track, “Désolation,” beginning with melancholy horns, builds with stunning emotional resonance through its first half. Then the guitars strike a sinister, fuzzed-out pedal tone, other guitars chiming in as it builds and slows to a final, crushing death knell–very desolate indeed. The subsequent tracks are equally strong. Post-rock builds resembling Godspeed You! Black Emperor shimmer with cold, bleak tremolo guitars. Krautrock-inspired drumming and eastern-sounding melodies contribute an occult vibe to the last two songs. The climax of the final track “Alamüt” wreaks a similar havoc to Cult of Luna’s burliest moments, and the release is absolutely cathartic, ending the album on a devastating note. The guitars, again in melodic minor, rise and fall, spiraling around each other, and the album dies in quiet distortion.

There is an array of new sounds on this album, and taken as a whole, its impact is considerable. Year of No Light’s bleakest work to date is a crusty, blackened slab of sludge-doom that shows a group of seasoned musicians experimenting successfully with new, blacker sounds and ideas.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by J. D. Anderson
December 2nd, 2013


  1. Commented by: Laurence

    worth having a watch of as you mention Vampyr :)

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