Locust Leaves - A Subtler Kind of LightIf you’ve been reading my reviews on a regular basis, you’ve probably noticed that I’ll take on pretty much anything under the sun. You could pin that on me as having no taste (and you might have a case), but I prefer to think of myself as open minded. Even the most stigmatized genres within the metal canon were born out of an earnest desire to innovate, and as such I’m willing to give any style — or in this case, a combination of styles — a fair shake. Enter Greece’s Locust Leaves, a band I was rather eager to cover due to their proclaimed fusion of prog, black, thrash, and doom metal. Locust Leaves does indeed cover all of these styles (and more!) in the span of just thirty-six minutes on their long-gestating debut A Subtler Kind of Light, but is the end product a work of bonkers brilliance or the metal equivalent of a budget buffet?

While not outright amazing, Locust Leaves certainly falls closer to the former camp. A Subtler Kind of Light is split into four tracks that feel like four distinct movements and genres, and while this results in an unfocused vision, the record is undoubtedly stuffed with surprises. LL briskly moves from folky and progressive takes on traditional metal in the vein of Hammers of Misfortune (“Light (Fos)”) to death metal tinged prog epics (“Pillar (Vraxos)”) and then to prog-doom that morphs into tech thrash a la Vektor (“Fall (Ptosi).” Though the stylistic changes are jarring, it’s undeniable that A Subtler Kind of Light sounds unlike anything else out there. There’s a clear affinity for classic prog rock a la Jethro Tull permeating this record even in its heaviest moments, and while I suppose “progressive metal” is the most appropriate descriptor here, the ceaseless genre bending places Locust Leaves in that rare pantheon of bands that cannot (and should not) be referred to in such basic terms. For its first three tracks, ASKoL is consistently innovative and captivating, even if the songs don’t gel into a cohesive experience.

But the fourth track (“Flight (Ptisi)”)… ah, that fourth track. Ambient. In recent months I’ve gained an unexpected reverence for the genre, which I once believed to be a series of random noises carelessly tossed into a blender labeled “modern art,” and Locust Leaves admittedly handles the style well with a combination of celestial and industrial droning. That being said, this track has absolutely no business being a part of this record. While I’ve personally never felt the need to prematurely turn off the album before the fourth track arrives (again, I enjoy the style), the vast majority of metal fans who check out A Subtler Kind of Light are going to feel burned by its finale. It feels completely removed from the rest of the record, a misguided artistic choice that obliterates the continuity of an album that was already disjointed, to begin with.

ASKoL disappoints as a complete package, but I still really dig it because it’s so damned good moment to moment. Sure, there are too many components to Locust Leaves’ formula, but they somehow succeed at pretty much everything they try, and it’s impressive that the musicians are capable of pulling off so many styles. Vocalist Nick K. is particularly adaptable; despite some wavering, his broad, booming cleans effectively accompany the epic scope of the more traditional sections, while his understated, snarling harsh performances are a great match for the record’s darker moments. The production here also deserves special mention, and not just for its dynamic master. The drums have a live, forceful quality to them, and the guitar tones possess a fuzzy, old school charm to them that holds up across the vastness of the band’s scope. This record certainly has a unique sound to it, and despite the heterogeneity of the compositions, Locust Leaves always sounds like Locust Leaves.

While A Subtler Kind of Light fails as a well-rounded album, it’s an impressive experimental (and yes, even artistic) statement. There’s quite literally something for everyone to enjoy here, and though few people will love every moment Locust Leaves has composed and most will be disappointed by its anticlimactic finale, it’s still absolutely worth checking out for the novelty factor alone, and the excellent production and flexible performances sweeten the deal. With more effort placed into creating a unified sound, Locust Leaves could easily become one of the underground’s most intriguing bands. They’re already one of the most promising.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
Websites: locustleaves.com
Releases Worldwide: March 17th, 2017

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  • Bas

    Pity there is no bandcamp page.. Your review got me interested, or lets say I feel challenged to check it out, to see if I can appreciate the whole album incl. ambient finale ;-) Cause you made it sound interesting. Good job!

    • mtlman1990

      Voidhangar bandcamp

  • Thatguy

    Clever but annoying. There should be a number for that – 2.5 I guess. Horrible album art.

    • herrschobel

      i was just about to say GREAT cover art :-) … you sire are blind…but hey…tastes differ, ey ?

      • Thatguy

        See above. :)

        • herrschobel

          unattractive ok … to you…fair enough… pretentiousness on the other side is not a valid criteria…how would you know anything about the actual Intention behind this or the actual sincerity of the artists behind it ? Jeff Koons might be pretentious ..and even that is up for debate..but this ? as an Art Major i can´t let “pretentious” simply slide ;-)..it is such a lazy dismissive category …

          • Thatguy

            It pretends at a profoundness that I do not find in it.

            And, no, I can’t know the artists intent, only what I see/hear.

          • herrschobel

            my basic claim about the ‘pretentiousness’ claim is and always was, that it can never be a valid criteria for art or the theory thereof unless one is very familiar with the actual background and the intentions of the artist. if a couple of trust fund kids from Brooklyn go all punk and make music about the hardships of workingclass life that might be a bit pretentious …but it could be very heartfelt and then that changes everything… this is just a simple image that has a lot to offer actually…but yeah…i get it .. you don´t like this at all ! :-P

    • contenderizer

      what herrschobel said. the cover art is odd but intriguing, and it suits the music perfectly.

      • Thatguy

        The art is pretentious and unattractive like the music – but as ever that is just what I think and you are entitled to think otherwise. :)

        • contenderizer

          no, i agree. i just think both are appealingly arty/ugly.

    • Μπελάς Μεγάλος

      Check the Hellenic word Αφιλόκαλος (Afɪˈlɒkæləs)

  • The embedded track is easy 4.0 for me, especially those folkish melodies near the end. Right dose of theatrics in vocals, nice, natural production, a bit of a guitar acrobatics and well-placed harmonies… I’m very eager to hear the rest.
    Consistency is overrated!

    • Wilhelm

      Agreed 100%, this rules!

    • Frost15

      Absolutely right on the embedded track deserving a solid 4.0. This is awesome!

  • Nate Sweet

    Based only on the review sounds like my type of band! I’ve been looking for another Haken-like band to come out (at least in terms of stylistic changes)

    • Diego Molero

      Check out Pandora’s Piñata by Diablo Swing Orchestra if you haven’t!

      • Nate Sweet

        Wow this is good! Unfortunately couldn’t find the named album but a quick listen to some of their older songs was enough (along with AMG review) to buy it. Thanks so much!

        • Diego Molero

          That one is their best one in my opinion, they have 3 albums, and… a new one on the works! Probably out later this year.
          You’re welcome, glad you like it!

    • contenderizer

      this is a very far cry from haken

  • sir_c

    epic band photo… just epic

    • Gaëtan Baratin

      Can’t be any unicorning if I am the unicorn.

  • mtlman1990

    I read Ayloss from Spectral Lore plays guitar on this album.

    • pfk505

      Can you not tell? His instrumentation is pretty unique, you can hear him when he plays with Divine Element as well. Maybe I just listen to too much Spectral Lore.

  • Ivan E. Rection

    Love HofM so might check this out, but expecting to be pissed off by that last ‘ambient’ track… a la Ashes Against the Grain (Groan).

    • I, Voidhanger Records

      Actually the last ambient track makes perfect sense if you read lyrics and follow the concept throughout the songs. It’s anticlimactic on purpose. And with repeating listenings, the album will sound more cohesive than you thought at first.

      • Even if the record is anticlimatic by design, that doesn’t make the final song less disappointing for someone who (like me) does not usually read the lyrics sheet.

        Now, I can go and read the lyrics and get the concept of the album. That would give me a better understanding of the choices the artists made, maybe more appreciation for the album even.

        However, music is as much art as it is entertainment imo. In the way the flow and consistency of the album is interrupted by the last track, the album will remain to end in an anticlimax. I might understand things from an artistic point of view, but that wouldn’t make things more entertaining.

        • I, Voidhanger Records

          It seems we’re saying the same. I’m not denying the last track being anticlimactic… it surely is. I just wanted to point the attention on the fact that, when such an ultra-complex and multifaceted record reaches a cacophonous peak and then abruptly ends in such an undetermined, minimalistic way, it’s for a precise choice… and that such choice should be judged in the context not only of the rest of the music, but also of the lyrics, as they play a big role in the concept and accompany the stylistic shifts throughout the album.

          Even the fact that the ambient track hasn’t been written by the band but by an external guest, is highly significant, it underlines the alienating ending of the work… out of the band’s vision.

          You can like the ambient track or not, you can find it entertaining or not, you can think that the anticlimactic end could have been done in a better anticlimactic way… that’s obviously an unquestionable matter of taste! Mine was only an invitation to dig deeper into the music and lyrics (and all artwork) to understand certain choices, because albums like this – clearly showing an intellectual and thought-provoking approach – should be “studied” more than simply listened to. This is my kind of “entertainment” anyway.

          • drug_genosh

            wow, I mean, obviously youre a little biased but I appreciate you taking the time to shed a little light on this album. It seems like even the author of the review missed out on this and now im slightly more inclined to check out the full album (I wasn’t 100% sold on the embedded track) because I love records that you can really dig into. Now how about that Lorn vinyl?!

          • I, Voidhanger Records

            You’re welcome! The author of the review actually wrote a lot of good things about the record and underlined that the band is influenced by 70’s prog. Absolutely true. Jethro Tull and King Crimson have been mentioned here, and I’d like to add Van Der Graaf Generator because of the existential themes and allusive lyrics.
            The Lorn vinyl will arrive, hopefully later this year!

          • drug_genosh

            Awesome! thanks!

          • Thanks for taking the time to reply! Though we may not agree on the last track, I do think that A Subtler Kind of Light is a great and challenging record.

            It was not clear to me that the last track was not written by the band. I didn’t see it in the tags of the album download or on the Bandcamp page. That would have been worth knowing.

            I will give the album some listens while reading the text sheets. Let’s see if it works. It wouldn’t do any harm for sure.

          • I, Voidhanger Records

            Glad you like the album! I felt a bit embarrassed posting here (the band won’t be happy about it…), but I couldn’t resist. Not because I’m the label and I am supposed to stand for my bands, but because I bring my own experience as a listener.

            It was Ayloss from Spectral Lore that introduced me to Locust Leaves a few years ago, saying that they’ve been an influence on him. An “invisible band” that nobody heard of being an influence for Spectral Lore??? It sounded like a fable to me. I listened to some of their music and liked it, but it wasn’t instant love: their music was very complex, I was too busy at that time, so I didn’t pay enough attention.
            Months later, I luckily decided to give Locust Leaves another chance because Ayloss was still mentioning them. Their whole discography was available for download on their webpage, complete with lyrics and art (both by guitarist/bassist/singer Helm) and after a full immersion I understood that I had misjudged them. Ayloss was right.

            So, when I read reviews from people that show doubts, or that didn’t like the album (very few anyway), I can’t do without thinking of my experience, and that maybe some people just need to give it more than a couple of spins, and that they need to read lyrics and look at the booklet art, because both concur to the experience and add a new dimension (lyrics come as comic book panels, all drawn by Helm).

            Some won’t change their mind, some will… but it’s a matter of fact that some records need more time and a lot of mental effort, and since we all rarely have them anymore (we’re bombarded by new metal offerings all the time) I felt like giving my suggestion based on my experience, from a listener to other listeners!

  • contenderizer

    wow, this is…something. i honestly don’t know what to think. i understand why hammers of misfortune might be invoked re: “light (fos)”, but it’s more abstract and much less pop-accessible than anything cobbett & co have ever attempted. has the awful, garish intensity of avant-garde art music, like the production design of wiene’s cabinet of dr. caligari come to musical life, all harsh contrast & grotesque exaggeration. kind of hated it at first, but the damn thing slowly won me over. and “pillar (vraxos)” is more difficult still. no surprise that i, voidhanger signed these guys. fits right in with the likes of blizaro & howls of ebb.

    AMAZING ALBUM ART

    ordered

  • Dudeguy Jones

    This album is a bit polarizing, to be sure, but I found myself engaged repeatedly with it as time went on. Some of it reminds me of Ved Buens Ende a little and I felt a King Crimson sort of vibe, to compare to your Jethro Tull vibe, though either fits right?

    Definitely one of the more interesting albums Ive heard all year.
    Ayloss did solos, I believe. One of them really good, on the first or second song. And the cover arts pretty cool. :P

  • Tom Hardy

    Vocals too loud in the mix on that embedded track and kinda bad but chicks dig it. “It’s the car right, chicks dig the car”. Anyway, boring as hell, having to wait 5 mins to the only decent part. I’m going to go back to drinking this weird drink they call a Kambucho or Cambucha or something.

  • h_f_m

    WOW. WOW. WOW. This is amazing. This should def be AoTM.

  • Fortunately, this review was not the first thing I read about this album. Based on the review, I probably would have ignored A Subtler Kind of Light, even though references to Hammers of Misfortune and Vektor might have sparked my interest.

    I very much like how the album covers many styles and moods without sounding like a bunch of ideas thrown together randomly. In that sense, Locust Leaves reminded me a bit of that other Greek band I like, Hail Spirit Noir. Also, thumbs up for the singer! I had to get used to the clean vocals initially (but then vocals in metal are pretty much acquired taste anyway), but after having listened to the album a few times, I think they fit very well.
    Too bad this only applies for the first 3 songs. That ambient 4th track is really a pity…

    • Eldritch Elitist

      I think that you and I are completely in agreement. My feelings on the ambient track really soured my view of the record as a whole and pretty much forced me to give this a 3.0, even though the rest of it is absolutely worthy of a 3.5. This could’ve been a 4 if the final track had been something completely different and as good as the rest of the record. I really hope the score doesn’t prevent people from checking this album out, and I’m glad you got to experience it before reading the review.

      I just cannot express how disappointed I was to reach the final track for the first time after so thoroughly enjoying the rest, disjointed though it may be. I can’t think of another track on any other record that so violently extinguished my enthusiasm.

      • contenderizer

        kind of baffled by this, tbh. the ambient track isn’t great, but it doesn’t in the least diminish my appreciation of the first three, or of the album as a whole. it’s not bad enough (or anything enough) to matter.

    • contenderizer

      “Locust Leaves reminded me a bit of that other Greek band I like, Hail Spirit Noir.”

      Absolutely. Was thinking the same thing.