If you want to invoke the apocalypse, it helps to read the runes first. NYC’s A Storm Of Light, like Killing Joke, Anaal Nathrakh and Ministry, always sound as if they’re accelerating towards some all-encompassing moment of reckoning, but their fuel is an endless tank of genuine disgust, frustration and a keen eye on the belligerent shitshow unfolding all around us – a perspective that becomes a vividly psychedelic experience.
Back five years and one new presidential term after their last album, Nations To Flames, A Storm Of Light have a whole new reservoir of volatile bile to burn and a new sonic scope to torch. The result is the charged, and stunning new album, Anthroscene, due to crash into your consciousness on October 5 via Consouling Sounds in Europe and Translation Loss in the US.
We’re about to light the fuse with a new track, Slow Motion Apocalypse, complete with visuals from frontman, and former Neurosis visuals wizard Josh Graham. Starting on a doomy yet tense footing, the friction-burn that kicks in is a carrier signal for a Josh’s taut vocals that are both a surveying of Bedlam and vision of carnage yet to come.
Grip tight onto Slow Motion Apocalypse below, and scroll down for an in-depth interview with Josh Graham himself!
Lyrically, Anthroscene is less impressionistic than Nations To Flames, more directly spelling out the state of the nation. What was the source of the urge to address issues more head on this time?
Josh Graham: “The lyrics on Anthroscene are an honest reflection/reaction of how I feel about a lot of our current events, not only the US, but also in a lot of countries around the world; our jackass president, Poland and Italy appear to be following suit into more isolationist right wing territories, France is flirting with it, Venezuela, etc. Five years ago, I never would have imagined the US would be where it is now. It felt like we were on the right path: moving beyond racism, establishing health care for the people, focusing on the environment, etc. Now, Trump, perhaps the dumbest president in world history, embraces and promotes hate, fear, and greed, while simultaneously campaigning against science, the environment, and the earth in general. For lack of a better term, it’s really fucking surreal.
“With that said, addressing the issues head on just happened, it wasn’t a preconceived approach, it just felt necessary. Since it had been five years since writing Nations, I had a lot of pent-up frustration that had been exacerbated by watching too much news, and feeling unable to enact any real change. It just feels like the middle class is being forced to watch our own undoing as the rich continue to soak in more of the money.”
There’s a broader musical palette this time around. There are elements of Killing Joke and Tool, and a reference to Grotus on the track Slow Motion Apocalypse too – all political bands, but who had a scope that rose above being mere polemic. How much of an impact did their approach have on ASOL and this album in particular?
“With this record, there wasn’t any concern about following the band's previous footsteps. We always expand our sound a bit every record, but this one had ultimate freedom to explore. That approach created its own palette. We all listen to so many different styles of music that we let go of any our preconceived concerns: what genre is this? How does that fit into the last record? etc… The answer was … who cares? We’ve never fit into a single category and we’re finally embracing it. I feel like Tool, Killing Joke, NIN, Grotus, etc all have that kind of independent/undefinable approach, and that is definitely an inspiration.”
“Grotus's Slow Motion Apocalypse has been one of my favourite releases since it came out in ‘93. I know that since then, the term has been spread around, even a band now, but referencing the song title to their EP felt like a cool homage to them… 25 years of listening pleasure. Haha! They were a great band that seemed to go fairly under the radar.”
More than most bands, the visual element has been an integral part of your work. For Anthroscene, the images of medication and that of a police state have been brought together with a single, very striking look. How did you approach the artwork for this album, and do you have any plans for something more extensive to cover live shows?
“Thanks a lot. I’ve always felt like the visual element can really have a large impact on the music, and how the music is perceived and thought about. The goal this time was to take a lot of the current events and mould them into a hazy dream/nightmare: riots, drug epidemics, trafficking, militarism, isolationism, etc. The surreal riot cop on the cover bookends all of the images together. She represents that machismo narcissism that a lot of riot police and politicians have: flirting with the idea of peace, but ready to fuck people up at any time for any reason, and looking good while doing it. The rest of the imagery compliment and further the scene… everything bubbling and churning under the surface.
“While a lot of the interior images are found, some are mine from Kiev, taken right after the 2014 riots. A Storm Of Light played there and somehow were able to walk around the destroyed downtown area, right after everything had happened. There’s one photo that is a child’s drawing of riot police assassinating people….it was taped to a tire on this wall just beyond the sidewalk. Right as I was about take it down, I looked up and saw a masked guy with an assault rifle, standing above me and watching me… about three feet away. Needless to say I left it where it was.
“I am still working on visuals for the upcoming tour. It will probably be evolving over the next year, as I don’t have a lot of time before we start the tour. At some point though, i would like to ditch the projector and move to LED screens, and create something more immersive for the live shows."
It seems like Anthroscene isn’t a protest record as such, it’s not some crust-style call to storm the barricades, it’s more a portrait of a nation in turmoil and decline. Both on an artistic and personal level, is this a more powerful way to deal with the situation we find ourselves in right now?
“I think this is protest album, but instead of ‘Let’s have war’, it’s more like, ‘We’re ALL in the midst of this fucked up shit, and a lot of it is out of our immediate control. What can we possibly do to combat it? A riot? Probably not’. I think the only answer is through voting, and trying to get sensible people into office, even if climate change is past the breaking point, which it seems to be. So even though this record is a dark and surreal self-portrait of our era, hopefully it can provide a different perspective, further insight, or maybe even inspire people to get involved on any level.”
A Storm Of Light have used a lot of apocalyptic imagery in the past. Do you see that as a warning, or embracing of the inevitable?
“Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be around for the apocalypse… be it a meteor, demons, whatever. While it was entertaining to explore those concepts on our earlier records, it felt like it was time to move beyond it. That’s probably why this record shifted so much lyrically. As far as being inevitable, if we don't somehow transition humanity to the stars, then our days are definitely numbered, whether it’s in our lifetime or in thousands of years.”
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