Last Light, the debut album from Drogheda trio Sights Distorted, begins on edge. The atmosphere created by ‘First Light’ is full of tension as picked violins play with the nerves and a thick bass line oozes foreboding in the background, but said tension is not representative of the album as a whole. Make no mistake: Last Light has its darkness – feelings of paranoia, self-loathing and futility are regularly used for vocal refrains – but it’s balanced against the light, moments of impulsive sonic optimism and a brutal energy.
The single ‘Arrows’ is the first of a few numbers that make a pronounced hat-tip to Nine Inch Nails using a tight, pounding rhythm and cryptic lyrics that vocalist David O’Brien spits under his breath. Shimmering keyboards take away from the song’s initial industrial-like punch, but the influence is there throughout. It is an album indebted to Trent Reznor. ‘Half-Light’, the album’s fulcrum and mid-point, even sound inspired by the NIN frontman’s work with Atticus Ross. With its ersatz choir and binary, bleeping synths swell around a self-pitying epiphany (“This world will never be good enough”), ‘Half-Light’ sounds like it could have been an outtake from the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack.
A track such as ‘Squeal’ shows Sights Distorted looking beyond Reznor and towards creating something faster and more upbeat while still featuring hooks like “So-called, wannabe, cliché, motherfucking, abstract nothingness”. It positively sprints out of the speakers, with its myriad drum patterns and synths that rise from boggy menace to giddy ecstasy; it keeps a hectic pace and feels like it really is trying to rush to “the edge of the world, the edge of the world”, breaking through the album’s established sonic ceiling in the process.
‘Wires’ and ‘5×5’ feature guitars and naturally take on a rockier countenance. They both work powerfully and methodically, underpinned by a strong percussive anchor , but ‘Wires’ finds the band willing to experiment with many different tones, and they throw the kitchen sink in for good measure. Idiosyncratic, schizophrenic – whatever you want to call it – even in their more conventional moments, Sight Distorted are in search of a sound that fits them best.
They sound particularly comfortable on ‘Precursor’, which is heady and breathless, while the sirens that usher third track ‘Linear’ in give the song the adrenaline rush of an emergency before succumbing to a thick, almost-danceable bass. Again though, Last Light is an album of contrasts as ‘Slowly’ and the title track confirm. They are ultimately smaller and more introverted than anything that has come before, feeling little need for bombast and allowing keys to resonate in the mind.
Last Light covers a lot of ground in 12 tracks without settling in one place for very long. It wears its influences proudly but ultimately knows to separate itself from them, and Sights Distorted work hard to burrow their own niche. A good first effort but this is really an exploratory mission – something more substantial awaits.