I really don’t like summer. If you were to think of me as an entity with twelve distinct personalities, I guarantee you that eleven of them hate the current season with a frightening passion. The light, the heat, the relentless sun… all of it makes me yearn for a simpler, darker, and colder time in the calendar year. I can’t say I’d go for no light ever, but damn if the title of Glacier’s latest (and, I believe first) full-length didn’t hit me like, well, a glacier, and demand my attention. Glacier hail from Massachusetts, playing a crushing kind of doom metal that leans on drone and edges against funeral doom. The album is called No Light Ever, and the title is apt.
The most noticeable element of Glacier’s sound is almost certainly going to be the lack of vocals. Yes, No Light Ever is an instrumental doom record, which poses quite the challenge for the band as far as songwriting goes. Vocals are, of course, a good way to frame an album, to keep track of its many twists and turns—not to mention the source of many a hook. Glacier scoff at such crutches and instead take the listener on a crushing journey through four songs over forty-two minutes, seeking to demolish you beneath the weight of their almighty riffs. They remind me a fair amount of the latest Mournful Congregation, give or take some post elements in the vein of Agalloch. If these name drops sound a little too good, please do take them with a grain of salt, as Glacier very much hold their own style, and the instrumental element of their sound necessitates some important compositional differences.
Each song in No Light Ever holds its own unique identity, making this a very fluid album to follow. When I listen to “O World! I Remain No Longer Here,” I love the ebb and flow that dominates its fourteen-minutes, from soft, clean strumming to crushing funeral doom and back again. This is the darkest track on the record, an ideal embodiment of “no light ever” that suffocates and drags the listener along. “We Glut Our Souls on the Accursed” follows a completely different track, surrounding the listener with light melancholy. Over its six-minute runtime, the song picks up steam only gradually; a slightly more complex drumming pattern, an additional guitar line, slightly more varied bass work—these are all Glacier needs to build up the belief that maybe, just maybe, there is light after all. But there isn’t; No Light Ever never reaches an emotional state more positive than “bleak,” and is a good listen as a result.
While I do love me some darkness, No Light Ever does have drawbacks. It works well as an instrumental record, but can be a bit repetitive at times. In particular, the first five minutes or so of “And We Are Damned Amid Noble Sound” are a frustrating exercise in redundancy. Further, the emotional impact Glacier seeks doesn’t always land as it should; some passages feel too long (as in the first half of “And We Are Damned…”), while others don’t feel long enough (as in the second half of said track). I’m not convinced that it’s the lack of vocals that causes the rift, though that’s a tempting view to take. I do, however, feel that for all the variety contained within No Light Ever, there isn’t quite enough of it. As a result, 42 minutes winds up feeling a fair bit longer by the end.
With all that said, however, No Light Ever was a pleasant surprise and a much better example of instrumental doom than I was expecting. Glacier have managed to create a huge, sprawling sound worthy of their name and successfully brought it to bear against this horrific summer season. No Light Ever is a powerful companion to bring with you into your darkest night. Wish as I may for this season of heat and humidity to end already, I know there are still some weeks of summer left—but records like this one certainly help to pass the time.