Band: A Pregnant Light
Album: All Saints Day
Label: Colloquial Sound Recordings
Damian Master, the troubled mastermind behind A Pregnant Light, once told me that “pure black metal must have riffs” (http://kwur.com/five-songs-to-listen-to-curated-by-damian-master-of-a-pregnant-light/). It’s an epithet shared by many, a simple idea in principle that nonetheless provides a stark guideline for how to gauge and interact with this genre of music. It’s rather fitting, then, that A Pregnant Light, Master’s long-running project, straddles the line between blown-out atmospheric black metal, charging post-punk, and straightforward heartache. To that effect, “Fear of God” comes roaring out of the gates with a surging black metal bent that doesn’t let up for three and a half minutes. It’s a different kind of black metal though, with hints of Joy Division creeping through and a melodic vein that straddles the line between punk and metal. This is classic APL, and the melodies are reminiscent of Master’s best material – the twin 2013 EPs Domination Harmony and Stars Will Fall. Much like those two excellent releases, Master conveys a sense of melancholy gloom, offset with galloping rhythms and just a hint of the arcane. It’s thrilling stuff, but extremely difficult to pin down. There are moments that feel like quintessential black metal, but are shot through with an unidentifiable something that makes me want to separate it from the genre as a whole. That something might just be the emotional anguish that we feel during the minutiae of life, or the desire for the strange that compels us to seek out the weird and the exotic. A Pregnant Light is no stranger to these desires, and the recurring “purple light” motif in Master’s work has caused some to dub his unique style “Purple Black Metal”. This is best displayed on the flagship track from All Saints Day, “Phoenix Street”, a wonderfully executed traverse through punk sensibilities and atavistic black metal, where Master’s guitar alternately sings and roars, creating a duality between the two styles yet remaining awash in the purple light. Again, I’m struck with the thought that this doesn’t quite feel like black metal, but everything is still there. Shades of Master’s past work shine through again in “Passover Gold”, which introduces an arcane guitar motif and then mutates it over the course of seven minutes into a clarion call to the unknown.
It’s refreshing to hear APL return to such form. I appreciated the pop leanings and the increasingly hook-laden, but secretly I had been wishing for a comeback of the APL that I first heard and loved – the furious energy and raw emotion had taken a backseat to explorations of happier aesthetics. That’s where All Saints Day comes in: as a reminder that Damian Master can conjure dark beauty in addition to the sugar-coated punk. As always, Master finds beauty in the black, and again as always (in Master’s words), it’s a purple sort of black.