|Musical Style: Rock||Produced By: Jason Martin & White Lighter|
|Record Label: Northern||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2014||Artist Website: White Lighter|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 85%|
What do you get when you cross hard rock on the lighter side of things, nuances of modern and alternative rock and lead vocals that are a nod towards Ozzy Osbourne? Besides a hugely fun listening experience, you get the fall of 2014 Northern Records self-titled debut full length of White Lighter. No, White Lighter might not be a household name (at least not up to this point), but the group has all the appearance of an all-star project when factoring its line up. Vocalist Mark Solomon is the most immediately recognizable name, particularly when factoring his work with punk rock act The Crucified and post-hardcore group Stavesacre. In similar fashion, Steve Dail has gained renown as the original bassist of Project 86 (also post-hardcore) and Andy Prickett as guitarist for alternative rockers The Prayer Chain. Rounding out the rhythm section are drummers Trey Many and David Brotherton of Starflyer 59 (alternative) and Unified Theory (rock meets power pop), respectively.
Most I am sure are aware that Angelic Warlord tends to eschew most modern or alternative music with lone exception being bands that might be of obvious interest. Stryper’s Reborn, of course, received a review as did Sins Of A Nation and Beyond The Rage, latter two being ‘modern metal’ bands that were every bit as much traditional metal as they were modern (both soloed with the best of them, while former featured a vocalist who was a near dead ringer for Bruce Dickinson). Hence, the inclusion of White Lighter and not just due to the Ozzy influenced vocals or classic rock nature of the guitar riffs but also for the fact they bring a ton of creditability to the alternative meets modern genre.
My first introduction to modern music occurred in the eighties, when most modern acts were not so to a fault or at the very least were modern from the standpoint of sidestepping the predictable and formula trappings inherit to the hair metal scene of the time. I correspondingly identified with The Call, The Alarm, 77’s, Veil Of Ashes, Vector and The Violet Burning as modern due to not being ‘flavor of the month’ on MTV (when they actually played videos) and FM radio. Fast forward three decades and tables have turned in that modern rock now falls within ‘flavor of the month’ territory with those predictable and all too formula trappings applying all the same. Perhaps I am set in my ways, but a great deal of modern music sounds similar to me with its compressed modern guitar tones, overuse of screamed vocals and underutilization of guitar soloing.
One can understand, as a result, how that previously referenced creditability is realized from the manner in which White Lighter stays true to its modern roots while branching out and proving so much more in the process. I like to think of White Lighter as a ‘hybrid act’ in this capacity from how it interweaves current trends with the classic sounds of the past. The upshot being the group’s ability to attract the attention of those into both new and old school sensibilities, not to mention the fact it has composed some killer material.
It starts with “Son Of Dawn”, a lively and inspired acoustic rocker joining a generous melody with a direct and too the point milieu. The commercial feel at hand begs for inclusion on FM radio. “Make Fire” maintains the up-tempo leanings but wrapped in a more funk-based package, as larger than life bass and smoothly flowing guitars align with the blithe surroundings. The commonality between the two are Mark Solomon’s Ozzy tinctured vocals, which succeed from not coming across forced or contrived but rather complementary in respectfully paying tribute instead.
What cannot be understated is the White Lighter strong sense of groove. Consider “Heavy”, also playing up profound bass with vibrant guitars to establish quite the reverberant low end, and “Hard Love”, even more energetic as swirling guitars and unyielding refrain combine in exquisite fashion. Catchy melodies that draw you in at once distinguish the pair. “That’s’ Right” intersperses bluesy aspects with the White Lighter penchant for groove, as slide guitar holds sway along with reserved backing vocals that evenly repeat the songs title. In the end, what we have here is a non-stop energy burst that will have you singing along in no time.
Mid-paced White Lighter moments shine every bit. Opener “Swan” also touches upon the commercial, albeit reflecting the overall moodier vibe in gradually moving forward to acoustic lacings and swarthy overtures. Again, the same made for radio feel presents itself. “Omens” and “Spearhead” rank with the albums heaviest, with former touching upon a doom-ish aspect from its plodding mentality (cold and icy but catchy all the same) and latter mingling airy acoustic hints and driving guitars to create a near progressive environs (every bit delicate as it is accessible).
Disquiet and unsettled might be the best way to describe “City Sailor”, the groups most ominous in slowing maneuvering to piano, reserved electric guitars and acoustic layers in almost hinting of Alice Cooper. Adding to the songs allure is the classic rock flavored refrain. Taking a similar heading is “Breath Cancer”, every bit the creepy plodder with its forlorn overtures and muscular low-end but not forsaking melody in the process. Albums transparent production again allows bass to make a prodigious statement.
White Lighter is available as a digital download or vinyl release (why it has not been released on CD is beyond me). I have neither the turntable nor deep pockets for vinyl. The digital route, on the other hand, can be bare bones in normally offering just the music files but no liner notes. Hence, I do not possess lyrics in which to go into detail. You will find, however, hints of faith sprinkled throughout the group’s material. “Son Of Dawn” sums things up best in this regard:
Should your road be narrow
Should you turn aside
My open arms are waiting
Run to the Light
I offer more than
Not just a Kingdom
But where to rest your head
It presents with a challenge coming up with anything constructive concerning a work as strong as White Lighter. That said, perhaps the group could have expanded upon its instrumental sound by allowing for some extended ethereal ‘Floydian’ instrumental moments or occasional stretch of bluesy lead guitar, both of which would prove a perfect fit for the moody nature of the music at hand. Yes, I understand that many modern bands shy from instrumental expression, but I have seen it done tastefully, such as Curious Fools on its 1997 release Read in which it combined the best aspects of alternative and classic rock.
White Lighter comes across refreshing with its front to back catchy melodies while providing just enough diversity (from modern to classic rock to Ozzy to bluesy to groove to funk) to keep things of interest with repeat listen. The group represents one of the better surprises to have come out of 2014 from this standpoint. I even had to change the title of the Top 20 Albums of 2014 article that I wrote to Top 21 Albums of 2014 in order to make room for White Lighter! Overall, I see the group having great potential to appeal to those whose tastes trend towards the heavier metal and hard rock side of things. At the very least, I encourage giving White Lighter the opportunity it deserves.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Swan” (3:54), “Son Of Dawn” (3:00), “City Sailor” (4:01), “That’s Right” (3:28), “Breath Cancer” (4:03), “Heavy” (4:03), “Omens” (4:13), “Hard Love” (3:57), “Make Fire” (3:12), “Spearhead” (2:46)
Mark Solomon - Lead Vocals
Andy Prickett - Guitars
Steve Dail - Bass
Trey Many - Drums
David Brotherton - Drums