Suave qui peut. — It’ll have to be every man for himself in the loosely conceptual reality presented on this fourth full-length album from Austin, Texas-based doom metal quartet Destroyer of Light. Though this mindset, this very human idea that when the going gets tough human beings are ultimately selfish bastards who’ll do anything to survive, seems fitting enough as a “post”-pandemic subject matter to mill upon ‘Panic‘ was partially written/conceived prior since, eh, the world had been collapsing long before illness forced the ignorant to finally see the abyss staring back at ’em. Modern psychedelic doom metal thunders about in depiction of disaster and the frantic mania of human response, wherein the cinematic vision of the artist focuses on the mental process of trauma and survival while the destruction of the scenery remains the most captivating point of their work.

Destroyer of Light formed circa 2012 between members of Aetherhawk and Poor Bastards Revolt!, lesser known or then still formative heavy rock groups that’d taken a backseat as those involved quickly caught ears with this new doom metal sound. The original style of the band had been noteworthy on their self-released live set and self-titled debut album (‘Destroyer of Light‘, 2012) right out of the gate, the personae of the quartet treading between Lord Vicar-esque vocals, some heavier death metal growls and a hit of fourth gen Alice in Chains harmonization here and there. Traditional doom metal had been side-swiped by Pallbearer at the start of that year, so I wouldn’t say these guys picked it up quick n’ direct but they were fortunate to have had a similar touch in hand several months later on their debut even if it was under-baked. It was a start, anyhow, it’d taken the band a while to work up to the higher standard of their second album (‘Chamber of Horrors‘, 2017) which’d offered a -huge- leap, an underrated stoner-charged traditional doom metal release in general, and their first “serious” release. At this point guitarist/vocalist Steve Colca‘s style had been honed, the death growls were minimized and the recording yanked up to a professional standard circa 2017 between its Plotkinworks render and an especially fine Adam Burke cover art. This’d been a strong standard set for psychedelic doom metal at the time and their third full-length (‘Mors Aeterna‘, 2019) maintained this standard in iteration. Beyond the a bigger, darker thunder to it all the ‘Endtyme‘-era Cathedral style jog of “Falling Star” still stands out as high point in memory even if the album itself gets a bit lost on Side B. Expectations where high heading into ‘Panic‘ and I can confidently say they’ve upheld those high standards for render and riff alike, even if they’ve ultimately found a somewhat different approach to atypical and expressive stoner/psychedelic doom it generally works.

Destroyer of Light are ready to explore new yet largely adjacent realms within and beyond ‘Panic‘. I say this because most everything aspect of this album suggests they are ready to reach bigger audiences with personal/emotional narrative while modernizing their gloomy and increasingly conceptual work. Traditional psychedelic doom metal amped up to sludge bluster under the claw of stoner metal warmth is still essentially their gig but you won’t hear the wandering indecision or curious experimentation of past releases here. Fair enough, you’d have to needle away at this record to really get what I mean but this’ll feel like a leap in a different direction if you’ve still got ‘Mors Aeterna‘ in mind. The transition ain’t that pronounced to start, though, as opener “Darkshimmer” fuzzes in, hits a few big-assed somber doom metal riffs and gives a few roars before its dramatic entrance is over. This’ll hit like signature Destroyer of Light but, the next step nonetheless.

“Contagion” will be the first song to directly cue the listener into the concept of the album and will likely having folks squirming in their seat thinking it a confessional, a stream of consciousness about the uncertainty surrounding the events on ~March 2020 and the two years plus beyond. This is especially true as the lyrics change the point of view of the narrator mid-song, from the outside looking in to the inside looking out, setting the mind well in place. Yet the actual intent of the song is closer to that of The Happening (2008) or José Saramago’s brilliant Blindness in some respects it will most likely read as a deeply cathartic, almost “too soon” examination of trauma for some folks. The song itself is not only memorable for its narrative but the more sensitive and melodic register from Colca who has dialed down his Chritus-esque timbre to land in between early Spirit Adrift (“Cold Air I”) and Pallbearer with a hint of Candlemass still resounding in diction on “Midnight Sun”. I make these references primarily not because I don’t find this modified approach any more “original” than past works, not a big concern overall, but because it changes the tone of Destroyer of Light‘s sound considerably, hitting upon popular and polished modern doom metal sounds with a deeply tragic, melodramatic sentiment.

The second half of ‘Panic‘ changes its tune to some degree, picking up on the severity of “Before You Die” and again taking a tip from records like ‘Divided by Darkness‘, not only for the vocal harmonization applied but the Dio-era Sabbathian structure of the piece. While I wouldn’t intend to belabor the point of big changes when this record, again, isn’t going to shock most listeners expectations for a solid nowadays doom metal record with some notable variety in its presentation this’ll be an easier, far less demanding full listen overall and one which sticks to its tunefulness without an reaching experimentation. The only actual complaint I’d manage along the way was some too-familiar references and closer “Nightmares Come True” cutting off too quickly at the end, making the cycle back to the first song (when on repeat) slightly awkward in transition. Though a full ride through Destroyer of Light‘s fourth album is memorable, cathartic and brings some considerable variety as pleasure listening the greatest success of ‘Panic‘ come by way of great care paid to lyrics and music matching in tonal depiction of concept. There is a satisfying holistic effect to be experienced here which wasn’t entirely present on prior works and it feels like a nearly complete maturation in motion for lack of a better notion. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Heavy Friends
RELEASE DATE:November 11th, 2022

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