Grand Rapids, Michigan's A Pregnant Light has put out 11 releases (counting this one) since 2011's The Feast of Clipped Wings, a demo that introduced the one-man band to a cassette-only crowd. The format at the time made sense — APL's debut was more in keeping with underground black metal than not, though APL's sole member, Colloquial Sound Recordings head honcho Damian Master, has shown a penchant for big, memorable melodies since day one. Over the course of those subsequent 10 releases — all EPs or splits, so not as quite insane as that output sounds — APL has changed. A listen to the first two tracks off of Before I Came, which are the only new songs on this CD compilation of mostly older material, leaves almost any affiliation with lo-fi black metal in the hazy distance.

Before I Came showcases A Pregnant Light's movement away from comparatively grimmer origins to a hookier and dare-I-say-poppier sound. The massive, arcing "DMHD" ("Death My Hanging Doorway") that anchors the compilation was a turning point for A Pregnant Light, and I know from speaking with Master that he considers it one of the the most important songs he's written with A Pregnant Light. Originally released as a single, "DMHD" clocks in at 21 minutes and has more furious blasting and big, sweeping riffed-the-hell-out movements than you can shake a stick at. A little after the 12-minute-mark of the song, there's a moment that in hindsight seems prescient — five minutes of slow-building punk riffage with a swagger that was previously kept under wraps. (To be fair, APL had already released a killer cover of Madonna's "Live to Tell" by this point.)

A Pregnant Light have put out six releases since "DMHD", and the last three — a split with power electronics band Deeper Wells, Domination Harmony, and Stars Will Fall — took that sound and tested it out, kneading it into a unique post-black metal blend that can be bluesy one moment and skew alt-rock another. (All of the material from those releases are included above as tracks 3 through 9.) Master calls it "purple metal," and it's as fitting a label as any, one that invites a scoff from purists while letting the music do the talking. A couple of us around these parts, myself included, considered Domination Harmony the best release of last year.

Lest any of that make it seem otherwise, APL packs a serious punch. When this band blasts, it does so with unhinged fury. Master's muscular, gruff bellow has an oomph and depth to it that's hard to describe or compare — it's a desperate but commanding yell that sounds like it was recorded in an unfinished basement. He might be singing about loneliness or a woman — no windswept and frostbitten mountains here. Hell, the opening lyrics to "Ringfinger," the awesome first track on Before I Came (yes, I think all associated allusion is intended), are "Get in my pickup truck / and close your eyes" — screamed, though, in a voice that certainly couldn't be called conventionally inviting or enticing.

As you'll hear on "Lilajugend," the other new song on Before I Came, Master's got a good singing voice, too. "Lilajugend" takes APL to the furthest point down the path it's been feeling out since "DMHD". Yeah, that's an acoustic guitar throughout, and the outro is reminiscent of a desert/psych chant. It works, and looking back at A Pregnant Light's career that began with The Feast of Clipped Wings, it's pretty amazing that this is where we are. Each of the past few APL releases have opened the door a bit more— if trends can be analyzed, whatever is coming should blow it right open.

Before I Came is out today on CD and as a digital download on Colloquial Sound Recordings.

— Wyatt Marshall

Track list

1. Ringfinger 03:02 (previously unreleased)
2. Lilajugend 03:55 (previously unreleased)
3. Heat Helps These Flowers Grow 04:45 (Domination Harmony)
4. Lives In Hole, No Friends 03:04 (Domination Harmony)
5. The Pregnant Life 07:40 (Domination Harmony)
6. Stars Will Fall 08:17 (Stars Will Fall)
7. My Life Outside The Party 06:40 (Stars Will Fall)
8. Glint, Glimmer and Glow 02:16 (APL/DW)
9. The Heavens Alone In Love 07:39 (APL/DW)
10. DEATHMYHANGINGDOORWAY 21:18 (Deathmyhangingdoorway)

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