Light this City – In BloomTuesday, 5th June 2018
Many things can change in a decade. The entire musical landscape in this case, when it comes to metal. Light this City, a Californian band that tended to play a very European form of metal in melodic death, called it quits back in 2008, after 4 full-length albums. The musical landscape of their time was one littered in ‘core – metalcore and deathcore were reigning on this side of the Atlantic. But now in 2018, with some shifts continuing in the metal scene, they have returned with their fifth album, and it’s a callback to what makes melodic death metal great.
Terminal Bloom picks up where the band left off a decade ago, with a focus on razor-sharp songwriting and frantic melodies that are sure to get fists pumping and necks bobbing. The underdog act is ripe and ready for their time to shine. We grabbed drummer Ben Murray for a talk around the time of the album’s release to discuss the band’s return, his thoughts on melodic death metal, his label Creator-Destructor Records, and his involvement with other bands.
Dead Rhetoric: What made you decide to bring back Light this City?
Ben Murray: We played 5 final shows in 2010, even though we broke up in 2008, and they went really well. That was for some closure. We played another show in 2015 with Darkest Hour. They invited us to play their 20th anniversary show when they were rolling through San Francisco. We got back together for that show, and all of our fans in the Bay Area came out for it. It was really fun; preparing for the show was really easy and fun, so that is what sparked the idea over the next year or so. We decided to do a new record. There were a few other things that had to be done with our other bands before we started on this, but it was still fun to play a show…we missed playing that style of music. We are all still friends so it worked out easily.
Dead Rhetoric: What was most important in starting a second chapter for the band?
Murray: Just the quality of the material, honestly. Making sure the record was as good as we could make it. Sticking to our guns, but pushing ourselves. We also would like to tour some places where we have not been before in our career. We are looking forward to that.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see Terminal Bloom sitting in regard to the rest of your material?
Murray: I definitely think it has the best production from a sonic standpoint. I think it’s a nice mix between our last two records. We’ve grown a lot as musicians in the last 10 years – we’ve played in other metal bands, punk bands…so we have evolved as songwriters and musicians. So going back and attacking that kind of melodic death metal style felt refreshing and natural.
Dead Rhetoric: I always felt the band was a bit underrated back in the day. Did Light this City really get its due in the era before 2010?
Murray: I think we definitely got a lot of cool tours that we could be on, and we played with a lot of our favorite bands. I feel like we were on the upswing before we broke up, so it’s hard to say. I think it would have taken another couple records to see if we popped anymore. We definitely had our fan base, but it was a tough time to be a melodic death metal band in the United States, because deathcore really took over.
Bands like Job for a Cowboy and Suicide Silence – those were the bands we were touring with. We played big shows, but some responses would be pretty weird. It was a time when less people were responding to that type of music in the States. There was a lot of American metal like Lamb of God – that style was big. I would never say we didn’t get our due. I wouldn’t feel like we deserve all this glory or anything. We just tried to write the best stuff we could. We are stoked on whatever we can do.
Dead Rhetoric: Thinking of other bands similar to you in the States, I’m not really sure there was really a time when US-based melodic death metal really had a time to shine, per say. Most people usually look towards Sweden and Finland for that style.
Murray: Totally. When Light this City started in 2002-3, there were some bands, like Arsis, Darkest Hour, The Black Dahlia Murder, and others like that. There’s a handful I’m forgetting, but yeah, it’s not this big, big scene like it is in Europe. There’s always melodic metal – whether it’s symphonic or pure melodic death metal…not a lot of that comes out of the US. It’s kind of a funny thing.
Dead Rhetoric: We are very concerned about our brutality [in the US], or we like to take things in a more pop direction with melodies.
Murray: Exactly. People love the really technical stuff, which kind of bores me because I can’t latch onto it. I care more about songs, and it feels sporadic to me. But people love that. People love the stone-y kind of stuff these days. There’s trends that fall in and out. Melodic death metal hasn’t really been at the forefront – it’s still not. There’s some outlier bands that do really great, but even the European bands that were the leaders of that don’t really sound like melodic death metal bands anymore.
Dead Rhetoric: Is there anything you’d go back and change in the way that Light this City progressed? Not necessarily in sound, but decisions that you made along the way?
Murray: That’s hard to say, because I don’t like to think about regrets too much. I have some personal regrets – I wish I would have enjoyed certain times in hindsight and not be so stressed. But honestly, I think we did the best we could. We worked really hard. I think we could have maybe toured for at least a year on our final record before breaking up, but it was a very sudden thing for Laura [Nichol] and I. We just decided to stop. Maybe we wouldn’t have ended it that way – we left during the middle of a tour. I hate cancelling shows and it seems like a bad way to do things. But besides that, I don’t know. I think we tried our best.
Dead Rhetoric: You are also in Heartsounds and Wilderness Dream, all of which have distinctly different sounds. Do you feel these bands cover your musical palette?
Murray: Yeah, definitely. In terms of fast, loud music, for sure. I mean, I listen to other stuff, but in terms of music I want to play, for sure. Heartsounds is a very melodic punk band for those who don’t know, and Wilderness Dream is heavier to me than Light this City. It’s meant to be completely heavy in a darker kind of way. I get to scream and play guitar and lose my mind. With Light this City, it’s this element of melodic death metal that we really like writing to. So it definitely covers my spectrum of what I want to play.
Dead Rhetoric: What made you decide to start up your own label with Creator-Destructor Records?
Murray: The label has been around for like 12 years – it was around 2006. I started it back when Light this City had signed with Prosthetic, so I kind of got a glimpse into it and thought I would enjoy doing it. I decided to take it slow and try to find some good metal to release. We started releasing CDs at first, bu quickly, we started doing vinyl for almost everything. It’s been a steady thing for a decade. It wasn’t a full-time thing for a while, but it’s been an active, constant thing. I enjoy the whole process of putting out records. At this point, I’ve learned a lot with it, through Heartsounds and just the last 10 years. It was a no-brainer to do the new Light this City record ourselves.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel you’ve learned about the industry from running a label that you have directly applied to Light this City?
Murray: I’ve learned over the years what works and what doesn’t, with marketing. What to spend money on and what not to. How to promote things and how to make sure everything is cool looking – there’s no shitty art. Over the years, there have been certain elements in other people’s hands and we have been disappointed. When we can run things ourselves, it’s easier.
Dead Rhetoric: So you feel more in control of the band’s direction with this setup?
Murray: Definitely. The state of the music industry is pretty crazy. There’s only so much you can do to push a record without touring all the time. Within the realm that we are going to exist in, within the next few years, it felt reasonable to put out our own record. We aren’t going to be touring full-time, so we put the record out ourselves and make the most of it that way. We also have the money going straight to ourselves, which is better than trying to recoup some record label money. We like the long-term benefit of that.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you like best about the melodic death metal approach that you apply to the band?
Murray: I don’t know, I’ve always loved that sound. I’m a sucker for the harmonized guitars, the single-kick thrash beat. I gravitated towards that sound years ago, with the old In Flames and Dark Tranquillity records, and obviously At the Gates and Carcass. I came from liking melodic punk rock and hardcore, so it was really infectious because it was so melodic and so epic. There was a lot of heartwretching melodies. If you listen to some of those old In Flames records, there are some beautiful melodies on the acoustic tracks. It combined the aggression and speed that I loved from hardcore music, because there wasn’t any clean singing. It had all of these elements that I loved, and it wasn’t straight death metal or thrash.
Dead Rhetoric: That’s one thing that I like about Light this City, since you could have easily just went the way of many other bands and incorporated that clean singing/scream combo into the music. It’s cool that you continued that same path of what you started.
Murray: Thanks, yeah. We’ve always hated that sound. There’s bands that actually do it well – I’m thinking about Amorphis right now. There’s metal bands that do it well, but in general, the clean chorus, sing/scream sound, I’ve always hated that dynamic [laughs] it always felt cheesy to me when they switch modes like that.
Dead Rhetoric: A lot of recent melodeath returning this year – is it the right time for this type of material to get some exposure now that it has laid low for a bit?
Murray: Who’s to say? At the Gates has a new record, so there’s some stuff going on. I don’t think it’s going to be the new hip thing – I can’t see that happening. I think it’s too niche. But I’m always stoked when there is more of it coming out. I would love for that sound to get bigger, and appreciate that sound that they did in the late ‘90s and early 2000’s. It’s kind of hard to say. I always have low expectations and it’s nice to be surprised [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: In terms of plans for the band, where do you see Light this City heading?
Murray: We are doing a west coast tour early in June. Then we are going to do some east coast dates pretty soon. Hopefully we will go to Mexico and Europe at some point before the end of the year. We are just trying to explore those opportunities. We are stoked to get out there and play. I’m sure we will do another record in a few years – maybe 2-3 years we will do another one. But we want to see where this thing takes us, since it has been so long. We just want to play some cool places.
Dead Rhetoric: Have you found that a lot of the old fanbase was quick to return to the band?
Murray: It’s actually been really surprising. We get a lot of comments every day on social media and YouTube saying that they didn’t know we were back and that they are excited for the new record. There’s been a lot of people who have been following us on social media the whole time too, and are stoked. I feel like it has been easy enough to get the word out again. YouTube is a huge help. I don’t know how else really, outside of the Internet. It’s been getting pretty good press, so hopefully it continues to spread the word.