Prisms and refraction are one the first few things you’re taught in any high school physics class. For those of you who managed to avoid the dreaded subject of physics, the basics of refraction are as follows: a visible light (white light) – when shone through a prism- is separated (dispersed) into its component colors (each of which carry their own wave frequency), and each color’s wave bends differently as it passes through the prism, thereby creating a visible rainbow of colors. Your next lesson is this: What happens when you shine the explosive band A Light Divided through the prism of Alternative Rock? The answer is the refracted blend of colorful musicality, technicality, raw passion, and perfect dynamics that comprises their latest release, Mirrors.
Kicking off the album is “Betcha Can’t Kill Us All”, a quick, powerful intro that will march straight into your ears. A fade-in battle-march drum line greets your ears and builds in intensity as marching footsteps, morale-raising synthesizers, and invigorating chants of “We’re not what you think we should be/We’re not giving into what you think we should be” join the fray in a prerequisite for the impending war of angst-ridden, raw instrumentation that will soon be raged against your ears. In the blink of an eye, “Challenge Accepted” has rushed your speakers, slamming your ears with an infectious blend of melodic, angst-y instrumentation and accusatory lyricism. Bitter, grooving riffage, driving percussion, and rich clean vocals instantly greet your ears from the moment you press play. Guitarists Lewis and Humiston flex their instrumental prowess in an energetic display of spiteful, “core”-esque riffage meshed with driving, punk-rock power chords, adding the occasional personal touches of melodic arias and grooves. Drummer Adam Smith’s aptly crafted percussion perfectly complements the rest of the instrumentation with a masterful blend of snare-based, punk-style percussive elements with metal’s intense footwork, and crashing cymbal play as bassist Mike Underwood’s undertones steadily lurk beneath the crackling surface of intense instrumentation. Vocalist Jaycee Clark’s rich, alto range shines through the potent instrumentation as she pours her heart out in every word of every verse. The addition guitarist Lewis’ vocal implementation of full, raw mid-screams adds a stellar layer of emphasis and depth to Clark’s honest lyricism as the track closes in a seductive, sweat-inducing breakdown.
Following “Challenge Accepted” is “Kid, You’ll Move Mountains”, a blistering track that showcases the band’s hardcore influences. A quick, melodic lick greets your ears before quickly turning into a surge of heavier, punk-influenced instrumentation. Lewis and Humiston’s instrumental craftsmanship appears conversational as spastic melodic arias and overlays fly above boiling riffage. Adam Smith’s percussion hits your ears like a brick to the face with each pummeling hit, kick, and crash. Clark’s vocal display focuses on her deep mid-range, allowing Lewis’ backing vocals and harsh mid screams to flourish. Most notable in this track is the fruition of Underwood’s groovy, walking bass lines, which frequently sail over the amassing riffage and dip into a sexy bass-drop-led breakdown that is perfectly accentuated with oscillating synthesizers.
Although every track in this album is easily a stand-out track and testament to the band’s dynamic musicality, “I Am the One Who Knocks” is absolutely deserving of an honorable mention. Whereas previous tracks have placed emphasis on the band’s heavier hardcore and metal elements, “I Am the One Who Knocks” showcases the band’s softer side of Alternative Rock. A modest drum fill and Clark’s crescendo of clean vocals gently ease their way into your ears before blasting you with an energetic, heart-felt display of melodic, “classic” Alternative Rock instrumentation. Lewis and Humiston’s gentle undertones of light, palm-muted chords turn into full-swinging, emotive, blues-y riffs and catchy choruses as Smith’s driving percussion follows parallel in a similar fashion, spicing up his percussive delivery with the occasional flashy roll. Clark best exemplifies her vocal prowess with a gentler, yet firm delivery, incorporating different vocal dynamics for emphasis. The stellar blend of instrumentation and musicality serves as a testament to the band’s technicality and diversity, and turns this heartfelt song into pure poetry.
Another honorable mention is “Look Sharp, Ya Dumbass!”, a bouncy track that will immediately ensnare your ears with every blazing riff. A brooding bass line from Underwood kicks off the track before taking an unexpectedly poppy turn into energetic, catchy riffs and licks and occasional pinch-squeals from Lewis and Humiston, accompanied by pulsating percussion from Smith. Clark’s vocals retain fragments of the gentle, yet stern tonality, as she utilizes sparse amounts of spoken-word elements. Lewis’ harsh screams take the spotlight, commanding a large amount of searing lyrical emphasis that burns through the buoyant riffage. The upbeat riffage suddenly takes a sliding downturn into an eye-widening, crunchy breakdown before returning to close with the previously lively riffs and licks.
The album closes with “I’m All Highway”, an energetic, anthemic ballad that will infest and nest in your ears long after the track has ended. A faded melodic lick flourishes into energetic, upbeat, distorted riffage followed swiftly by Smith’s throbbing percussion and Underwood’s gentle, grooving bass notes. Clark’s clean vocals take the forefront of this track as she reaches full control of her wide, deep alto range through gentle, synth-backed, breezy decrescendos and full-blast belting. Though this uplifting ballad is noticeably softer than the rest of the track, the band’s initial energy and dynamic blend is not lost in between each breezy lick and gentle verse, giving “I’m All Highway” a powerful edge that your ears will find irresistible.
Overall, A Light Divided has crafted one of the most dynamic, diverse, and important genre-blended Alternative Rock albums of this year. The clever blending of multiple styles and genres-from hardcore to pop-rock- stands as a testament to the harmonious function, musicality, and overall dynamic between each musician. Even more impressive is the unabating amount of pure energy and passion that the band fluidly puts forth throughout the duration of Mirrors, giving the album an expertly crafted sense of continuity despite the stylistic variations and shifts. Though many will try, few bands will ever be able to present such a vibrant, colorful display of expertise and craftsmanship as A Light Divided’s Mirrors.