Friday, May 17, 2024

First Listen: Light of Eternity

It typically takes nine months to birth a human being, but it’s not so common to see a fresh musical idea grow into a fully formed band and a debut EP in the same period. Desiring an opportunity to explore new sonic adventures, veteran Killing Joke drummer and occasional solo artist Big Paul Ferguson began sowing the seeds for what quickly became his latest venture, Light of Eternity (L.O.E.), last August. Enlisting Nashville-based singer/bassist Fred Schreck (The Ancients/Crush/The Billygoats/Satellite Paradiso) and Thailand-based guitarist Pauly Williams (Chaos 8), Ferguson took full advantage of technology to prompt a transatlantic collaboration that will unleash its eponymous four-song EP on June 1.

Naturally, this EP absolutely kills—just not in the ways you may expect.

First off, anyone expecting a continuation of Schreck and Ferguson’s past work together in Crush or The Ancients will find nothing of the sort on this release. As exceptional as that work is, this EP is not a Killing Joke-meets-Crush run through past magic—this is an entirely new aural aesthetic created by two longtime friends who were meant to make music together. While giving the metallic opening track “Edge of Fate” a first listen, I immediately thought that at least two vocalists were belting out the lyrics. Nope, that’s all Schreck—always fantastic but now showcasing a new level of versatility after already spending decades fronting some of the most consistently great outfits in Alternative music. (In my never-humble opinion, The Ancients is one of the best and most underrated bands of all time—and I’m not just saying that because Fred’s a fellow New Jersey native.) Few vocalists get better with age, but few vocalists have stood the test of time with as much grace and unwavering skill as Fred Schreck.

Ferguson also hits a stunning peak on the EP, prompting me to hit the guy’s Messenger to find out how many of the beats may have been programmed. The answer? Fucking none. Big Paul’s drumming has always struck a rock-solid balance between the soulful and the savage, but he drives Light of Eternity with some of his finest work in decades. (Bloody Fire Dances is 41 years old, folks. I don’t know how the man does it. As a fellow drummer, I simultaneously want to worship at his feet and punch him in the mouth.)

The EP’s finest moment, “Lament,” showcases both men’s greatest strengths. Schreck ranges from baritone balladeer to Goth Metal groaner, while Ferguson alternates between crisp tom/hi-hat work and full-on bombast.

While the EP charts new waters with great aplomb, hints of the mighty Killing Joke are still felt throughout the proceedings. Moments on the aptly named “Explode” would have felt perfectly at home on the band’s most recent singles, while the closing “Tipping Point” delivers an awe-inspiring Pandemonium/Pylon mash-up.  

Anyone who straps on a guitar in a project with Big Paul in 2024 has some unrealistically high expectations to meet. I’ll address that matter by saying this: Full marks to Williams for honoring the familiar spirit of the past while leaving an undeniably unique mark on Light of Eternity. A rare feat—and a truly stellar performance from start to finish.

Supergroups are funny things. At their worst, they fail to live up to the hype (and often flat-out suck). At their best, they remind listeners of what made their respective source groups so fantastic but rarely offer something meaningful and lasting as a unit. This EP provides the elusive third option: A supergroup that exceeds expectations and showcases individual participants still committed to reaching and growing as creative forces.

Light of Eternity is a high-water mark in the personal discographies of three musicians who’ve succeeded in embracing the strengths of their individual pasts while setting the foundation for an intriguing collective future.

An essential listen.

Light of Eternity