Published May 22, 2018In 2008, San Francisco melodic death metal trailblazers Light This City called it a day immediately after releasing their phenomenal fourth album, Stormchaser. The band disappeared for most of a decade, but after opening for Darkest Hour's 20th anniversary show in their hometown, they've returned with their strongest effort yet, Terminal Bloom.
"Laura [Nichol, vocalist] has a half-sleeve of [Darkest Hour's] Undoing Ruin album cover, so she really had no excuse," drummer Ben Murray tells Exclaim! "So we said fuck it, let's get together and when we did the rehearsing for the show, it was just so seamless. Just right back in it. We had so much fun and it felt like we played the songs even better than we used to."
Despite a decade-long absence, Murray says they were never worried about the reaction; after the overwhelmingly positive reaction at the Darkest Hour show, they knew their popularity had only grown.
"When you have ten years since you've broken up, you gain a lot of fans; whether they got into us right after we broke up or two years or five years after, it's like when At the Gates and Carcass got back together," Murray explains. "We aren't in that league, or close to as popular or anything, but we weren't afraid of people not caring. We know that our fans would at least care, and that was enough for us."
Murray says he and guitarist Ryan Hansen treated writing Terminal Bloom like a full-time job for about six months to get songs ready. "It came smoothly too, it wasn't a painstakingly laborious thing where we had to try to get back into Light This City mode," says Murray. "With all of our other bands, and the riffs we write for those bands, we know how to compartmentalize. Like we know this is clearly a Wilderness Dream riff or whatever; we just knew what riffs were Light This City riffs."
Lyricist Laura Nichol drew from a diverse range of topics. The vocalist used her fascination with Greek mythology on "A Grotesque Reflection" like she would with early material from the band, but also got into deeply personal topics, such as the tragic death of her brother on "Extinguished."
"Lyrically I think [Greek mythology] makes sense to her for heavy metal, but a lot of the songs are very personal," says Murray. "She has a way of writing these really succinct lyrics that are not just soaked in generic heavy metal imagery and phrasing. If you just read the lyrics on paper, it could be anything, it's not necessarily super metal. I think that's always been her signature and people can relate to some of those lines, because they're just really broad."
While the band stopped creating new music for a while, the members never left the industry, starting multiple projects with and without each other, including blackened thrash outfit Wilderness Dream, death metal act Viral, and Murray and Nichol's punk rock project Heartsounds. Murray explains that after playing in Light This City since he and Nichol started the band as teenagers, they wanted to explore different creative outlets.
"After seven or eight years of Light This City, we really wanted to switch gears and challenge ourselves and learn how to sing and do different shit. I'd never been a frontman, I was always behind the kit. She didn't want to be a lead singer anymore, she wanted to play guitar. It was just growing up and wanting to try new shit, like wanting to leave a job after a few years. You just want to do something else."
The new record marks the first time Light This City have self-released an album. When the band went on hiatus, Murray started Creator-Destructor Records from the ground up, so it was a natural decision for him to release Terminal Bloom. The drummer says he wanted to make sure the band would have control over every aspect of how the album was released.
"Labels are dwindling in their significance to a band's success. Bands get huge just off hype or word of mouth or Bandcamp or social media or whatever. The days of a label making or breaking a band are more or less over," says Murray. "We wanted to also see all of the money from it ourselves, because it costs money to tour and put things out and it's direct to us. I hope the fans know that — when they buy the album, they're supporting us directly."
Terminal Bloom is out May 25 on Creator-Destructor Records.