I’ve always found gothic metal to be, much like viking or pagan metal, a phrase that is more evocative of a specific feel rather than a genre with finite boundaries. It’s one of those styles that manages to fit a deceptively diverse array of bands under its umbrella; Type O Negative, Moonspell, and The Vision Bleak differ greatly from a purely mechanical standpoint, yet the thick, gloomy atmosphere is ever present. The feeling is like a jaunt through a misty graveyard at witching hour, but while some outfits give the impression of a troop of grave robbers unearthing supernatural horrors from the soil with violent force, others seem merely content to casually stroll among the tombstones while soaking in the atmosphere. London, England based Light of the Morning Star certainly falls into the latter camp on its debut album Nocta. This one man band pairs classically gothic themes (including vampirism and the occult) with influences from several associated music styles, and while the mood feels authentic, the compositions are nearly as barebones as the graveyard’s permanent residents.
Ah, but that atmosphere! Though sole member O-A has his black nail polish-encrusted heart placed firmly in gothic metal, he also pulls in elements of deathrock and black metal to create a soundscape that’s initially intriguing. Dissonant power chord drives and melodic lead guitar lines serve as Nocta’s muscle, while also squeezing in supporting piano and cello performances. The effect these components have is subtle, but when paired with the droning background vocals they conjure a heavy, gloomy air that effectively suits LotMS’s style. The song-to-song tempo and stylistic variations are pleasant as well; while tracks like “Serpent Lanterns” and “Ophidian” drive forward at a brisk, punkish clip, “Grey Carriages” and “Lord of All Graves” plod along with a notable doom influence that helps them stand out from the rest of the record. With nine tracks spread across thirty seven minutes, O-A has managed to write a fairly diverse yet concise record.
Though initially enjoyable, it takes a mere second spin for the mist of my first impression to clear and expose Nocta’s glaring songwriting problems. Most notably, the structures are painfully simplistic; after reaching the chorus of each song, the listener may as well skip to the next track, as no evolution is made nor climaxes built towards after the conclusion of the first refrain. I’m not opposed to pop song structures existing in metal, but they’re nothing without energy, and LotMS feels constantly lethargic. The blame is split evenly between the riffless rhythm guitar work and the droning, melody deprived vocals. O-A’s deep intonations are rooted in deathrock and are intended to sound ominous (or perhaps sexy), but his vocals are delivered in a monotone manner that’s lacking in both hooks and passion. I’ve put an honest effort into letting Nocta’s atmosphere fully envelop me in the way O-A intended, but the songwriting is so disengaging that I never had a desire to return to it outside of my obligations to this site.
Despite my indifference towards it, there is one song on this record that serves as a decent example of what Nocta could have been with a bit more care. “Five Point Star,” the record’s closing track, showcases promising gothic hooks; the lead guitar in the verse weaves through the other instruments like tendrils of sulfuric smoke, and the chorus contains an actual vocal melody that’s both memorable and moody. Other tracks take a stab at this caliber of lead guitar work, but fail to grab my attention (the annoying wobbling between two notes on “Serpent Lanterns” comes to mind). This thing is also mastered way too loud, but at least the mix allows the bass to be heard clearly. With a guitar tone suited for black metal and a drum sound tailored for punk, Nocta‘s sound is an appropriate fit for LotMS’ fusion of genres.
As background music on a rainy night, Light of the Morning Star may prove itself a decent fit for devoted goth-heads; the atmosphere is consistently thick, and the tones utilized support it effectively. For pretty much everyone else, though, Nocta will likely come across as a series of half-baked ideas in need of some extra time to ripen in O-A’s thought coffin. There’s certainly potential here, but without an effective skeleton to bolster the mood, LotMS is a project likely to remain in the shadows of the underground.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Websites: lightofthemorningstar.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/lightofthemorningstar
Releases Worldwide: March 3rd, 2017