Sometimes music allows for pleasant surprises. A beautiful voice, an unexpected melody or the overall mood of a song may catch you, and sometimes a complete album comes as a surprise. The debut album of the band Light Damage is such an album. They are hailing from Luxembourg and consist of Frédérik Hardy (bass, bass pedals, backing vocals), Nicholas-John (lead vocals, guitars, e-bow), Sébastien Pérignon (keyboards, percussion and tubular bells), Stephane Lecocq (lead guitars) and Thibaut Grappin (drums, percussion).
The first time I played it, I wasn't paying attention, until a little narration in the middle of The Supper Of Cyprianus caught my attention. After that, the album had my attention from the first second of opening track Eden, which starts with a guitar and tubular bells ticking away like a clock, and builds up to a heavy, guitar driven instrumental that suddenly stops - and gives over to a vocal part with the first hint of vocal harmonies that will appear more often on this album. This second part of the track has a similar build up as the instrumental, with a crescendo that seamlessly flows into the second track Empty. Right after the opening the band pulls the brakes again, to allow singer Nicholas-John to sing the opening verse. After that, the power of the instruments builds up quickly again, making the track into another heavy progressive rock track. The instrumental ending lets guitar and keyboards take turns in the lead, while Sebastian Pérignon's organ wails underneath - and gets the final note.
The masterpiece of the album is the mini epic The Supper Of Cyprianus. Here Nicholas-John sings, and partly narr ates the story of this supper-a supper that starts as a feast, but quickly leads to the execution on the spot of a girl, convicted of being a witch, and ends with her return as an angel. All of this accompanied with great keyboard melodies and guitar solos by Stephane Lecocq. After this story, we go straight to Heaven, which has a similar structure to Eden, but with a heavier role for the rhythm guitar, which at times is almost metal like. The short instrumental F.H.B. (For Helpful Buddies) suggests, by its title, to be dedicated to people helping the band, but no specific dedication is found in the liner notes. It's a short piece which mainly features a plucked guitar and keyboard under a melodic guitar solo. It's not very special, but certainly not filler either. This track leads up nicely to Touched, probably the heaviest track on the album, with lots of guitar work and less obvious keyboard melodies. On this track the vocals do bring Pallas to mind at times, but only briefly.
Overall, the band has been compared to Sylvan, Pendragon and IQ, but also Marillion was mentioned. I'd prefer to avoid comparisons, other than the one I made on the vocals above. Instead I would describe Light Damage as rooted in 70s progressive rock, combining keyboard melodies with heavy guitar work and good vocal work. Nicholas-John does have a very slight French accent, and does sometimes stress the wrong syllables to make the melodies fit, but that is part of the charm of this band-a band that's been w orking together, with some lineup changes since 2005, leading up to this promising debut album.
**** Angelo Hulshout (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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