White Lighter makes sense. In, it’s basically the same main components as Neon Horse. So it’s a logical musical progression for Salomon and crew. Where Neon Horse seemed light hearted, shrouded in mystery, but never to the point where it took itself seriously, White Lighter seems like a more serious and “focused” project. Not that Neon Horse was a half assed attempt at making music. But it seems like it was the warm up these guys needed into stepping confidently into a new direction.
The liner notes say Trey Many (Velour 100, Starflyer 59) and David Brotherton provided drum tracks and that Andy Prickett laid down some guitar lines. But the main protagonist are Steven Dail (Project 86) and Mark Salomon (The Crucified, Stavesacre, Neon Horse, Outer Circle). Jason Martin is only credited as producer/engineer, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t play guitar on this record! Is his studio set up to replicate that sound and style so much that anything that comes out of there will sound like Jason played it? Did he teach Dail how to play exactly like him?
The album’s opener, Swan, is a shadowy figure, tempting you to enter into the mad house. It’s not a clear representation of what lies inside, but it hooks you and draws you in. That might be a stretch, but I like the imagery and I think it captures the essence of Swan. It’s clearly from the same band, but as an opener, it doesn’t represent the sound or feel of the album. It’s just mysterious and intriguing enough to get you to keep listening.
I don’t want to make bold claims or “sum” anything up neatly, but most of the rest of White Lighter’s debut plays like a darker version of Neon Horse. Like if Neon Horse joined the “Freaks” circus. There are more straight forward rock moments (Son of Dawn, That’s Right, Breath Cancer, Heavy, Hard Love). But there are these pockets where things get twisted and slightly weird. Where the tone changes just enough to add a disturbing layer. The single note piano intro seems almost unnecessary on City Sailor because very quickly it gives way to what is obviously a Jason Martin guitar riff and veers into standard rock and roll territory. But that piano cadence continues underneath the whole song. And something about the guitar riff morphs and shifts into something just slightly off center as the song progresses. Omens (again, another song that is full of Martin’s fingerprints) has a dark synth line mimicking the guitar line. Not throughout the whole song, but at moments to punctuate the melody. That synth line and tone adds a dark fun house/horror film soundtrack vibe. Make Fire also sounds like it was inspired by a horror film.
The record almost ends without a bang. The acoustic guitar that almost sounds like a detuned harpsichord, Salomon’s reverbed vocals creating that horror atmosphere. Spearhead’s a quick 2:45 long song that has the potential to be something epic. It’s like the closing statement from a twisted ring master thanking you for coming to his dark circus. I would’ve loved for this song to go on for another 2 minutes or so. Building into something epic and masterful. But it kind of ends on a whimper. The guitar note rings out briefly before we hear the fingers move up the neck of the guitar, ending the album.
I instantly loved White Lighter. As a fan of Starflyer 59, Neon Horse, and all of Salomon’s previous projects, I didn’t think I’d feel any other way. And despite my feelings that the ending is a little lackluster, I love this record! It continues in the vein of what I loved about Neon Horse. But there’s an added artistry here that makes it a new venture and an exciting new project. I hope this isn’t a one and done project because the music has room to grow and become something spectacular.
4.5 out of 5 Stars.