Friday, 12 July 2013

#134: The Dark Lights - Stop Existing, Start Living (EP review)

It only takes a couple of seconds before The Dark Lights sophomore EP Stop Existing, Start Living asserts itself as a record founded on moody atmospherics and tempestuous dynamics; like the band’s first effort before it, The Boy Who Saw Through Walls, this second outing from the Australian-Anglo-Portuguese quartet exhibits an off-kilter sincerity and romanticism that shirks any misconceptions and ideas of Australian stereotyping brilliantly. This sincerity is upheld all the more by the recent inclusion of singer Tristan Roe, who brings his personal experiences to the table by means of emphatic and emotive lyricism.

The first track 'Clear the Air' is an angry and angst-ridden affair that surprisingly brings to mind band’s such as Billy Talent, without the penchant for a nasally whine. Founding member Matt Ho’s guitar work is fantastic here and exhibits an understanding in the equal importance of those notes you don’t play as those you do. Conversely, the following track 'Sticks and Stones' has it's roots firmly in math-rock ground as off-kilter guitar permeates an eviscerating bass and drum combo that drives the chorus forward without compromise.

The second half of Stop Existing...begins with 'Game of Two Hearts' and provides a much needed breather after the unrelenting tenacity of it's predecessor. The picked guitar is once again present as is some equally impressive drums but the real highlight of this track comes in the form of Roe's vocals, that glides effortlessly across the tops of the instrumentation, seemingly unphased. The high notes, not only attempted by Roe, but attained are atypical of the previous tracks but suggest a much higher level of musical diversity in his vocal capabilities, and, when coupled with some contemporary piano work, only serves to heighten the auditory experience that the track offers. The record concludes with 'Ghosts' which sees business for the band return to normal, though it seems clear that they've saved their strongest song to close with. The lyrics are perhaps the best seen across the whole of the EP, though that's by no means a slight on the other songs, Roe's lyricism is both personal and universal, drawing on his own experiences to create a cathartic expression for his listeners, and it clearly works in his favour.

The Dark Lights are clearly a band with an unprecedented amount of both talent and energy, the latter of which, often subdued, finds occasional moments of blistering opportunity that burst forth from behind a placid fa├žade in fleeting moments of hardcore-inspired aggression. If their first record was a band cutting their metaphorical teeth, then Stop Existing, Start Living sees them razor sharp and gleaming. There's simply no denying the passion and the fervour that bubbles, unrelentingly beneath the surface a band destined for greener pastures.