It’s Halloween, which means any song I stream for you ought to be a trick, or a treat — well, New Light Choir is always both. This unclassifiable American duo has been putting out records in relative obscurity for some time, and not quickly either. Their second LP, creatively titled Volume II, was only released in 2014, but their witches brew takes time to cook. Their upcoming third LP, Torchlight is every bit worth the wait.
New Light Choir’s music is… delicate. Their balance of progressive playing with an unabashed love for old-school metal rarely survives in the sunlight. Only rarified bands like Hammers of Misfortune do the same. But where Hammers keep their references relatively overt—Metallica, Iron Maiden—New Light Choir are more obscure. Maiden, yes, especially the “Phantom of the Opera” prog-punk fusion of their early records exists in their music. Thank drummer Chris Dalton for that. So too does the epic atom-smashing of Cirith Ungol or Brocas’ Helm. Early black metal exists in their mix as well, Hammerheart-era Bathory’s epic grimness ravishes in John Niffenegger’s riffage.
What’s going to stand out, though, is Niffenegger’s singing. One might call him…— I don’t know. I’m a professional writer and I’m struggling for a positive word that still describes it (because my opinion is, in fact, positive). Gentle?
That’s it. He sounds gentle. His is the voice of a teller of fairytales, and a big part of New Light Choir’s appeal is the easy way they take my imagination to a space informed by adolescent reading and paperback books—Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guinn, Neil Gaiman. Imaginative stories with the warmth of spring and autumn, rather than winter’s hammer. It’s not a conventional approach, but it’s one that makes “The Grand Architect,” streaming below,
All this and more occupies New Light Choir’s dexterous fusion of all that made metal great way back when, as well as the true underground mentality of now on Torchlight.