Album Review: LUNAR – Eidolon

Originality is tough in music, and especially so in progressive metal. So many genres have cross-pollinated over the years that trying to put a unique spin on music usually ends up with going so far off the reservation that coherency can be lost. It’s a shame that “progressive” has become a kind of cliche-ridden sound of its own, hence my temptation is to call Eidolon — the second album by Sacramento’s Lunar — a progressive death metal album. Not in the sense that it uses “prog” tropes, but because it genuinely sounds like a forward step in terms of what can be done with death metal.

I’m not often a fan of likening bands to other bands, because I think unless it’s an intentional throwback or copycat it does a disservice, but the first thing that comes to mind is Opeth by way of Fates Warning and I do not say this lightly. Eidolon has an intensity to it that is organically broken up with occasional clean or melodic sections that never sound out of place; the group — brainchild of drummer and songwriter Alex Bosson — never comes across as hokey or gimmicky.

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Alex Bosson, founder of Lunar

All right, let’s dig in a bit. The musicianship is as tight as any metal release you’re likely to hear this year or any other year. Every member is on top of their game.  And speaking of members, the core of the group is comprised of singer Chandler Mogel, bassist Ryan Price, and guitarist Balmore Lemus, along with already mentioned Bosson on drums. Eidolon also features guest contributions from members of Haken, Leprous, Thank You Scientist, Fallujah, and more.

The guitars layer beautifully, with chunky riffs both alternating and occasionally layering beneath more melodic lines. The rhythm section pounds along, with a bass guitar that fleshes out instead of simply sitting at the root notes, even getting plenty of room to shine on its own (which I appreciate) and a drummer that can handle blistering double bass and blast beats right alongside jazzier sections. All the while we have a vocalist who manages to be perfectly understandable when he growls, by death metal standards anyway, without ever losing that sense of intensity and roughness.

One of the best things about (progressive) metal is that feeling of not knowing what to expect next. Sometimes it’s less enjoyable if it feels like the band doesn’t have a grip on what they’re doing and keep taking left turns to the mood, but once again Lunar succeeds by having each song feel like a distinct entity while never losing the tone of the album as a whole. After the two three “proper” songs (after the instrumental intro “Orbit”), the appropriately named “Comfort” comes in with a melodic and prog-rock/jazz inspired beginning, blossoming into a behemoth of a track that puts acoustic guitar and jazz drumming front and center forming a foundation and building to an explosion of a soothing guitar solo courtesy of Haken axeman Richard Henshall.

At this point you might think you’ve heard all of Lunar‘s arsenal, and you would be all wrong and a bag of chips. The very next track, “Potion,” is way more into the prog rock territory, with underlying acoustic guitar melody and jazz bassline carrying it.

The closing 12-minute epic “Your Long Awaited Void” is like a revue of all the best bits of the rest of the album: heavy riffs, clean vocals mixed with growls, acoustic bits, guitar soloing, in addition to cello-laden atmospherics,…

The word “classic” gets tossed around a lot, but I honestly can’t think of a better word for Eidolon. From front to back and top to bottom, this album is both firmly rooted in death metal with a progressive bend while standing alone atop the mountain. It’s equally headbang heavy and enthralling, music to get in the mosh pit and simply sit in awe of. This is required listening, because there’s nothing else quite like it.

Eidolon is out now and is available from Bandcamp. Check Lunar on Facebook and Instagram.

Album Review: Devcord – Dysthymia

Devcord - Dysthymia

Dysthymia, the debut studio album from Spillern, Austria’s one-man band Devcord, is a roller coaster of aural delight, distress, and progressive imagery that is bound to be a career defining moment.

The nuanced atmospheres and melodic sensibilities that composer Peter Royburger brings to each of the nine songs on Dysthymia are nothing short of brilliant. As the lines blur between romantic-classical period music, progressive metal, and almost ‘70s style prog rock it becomes apparent that Dysthymia is one of the most progressively challenging albums to be released in 2018, so far.

Songs like the opening “The Mortician,” which has a dark, eerie intro and powerful guitar riffs that evolve into orchestral stabs of Royburger’s vocals, demonstrate the ease at which Devcord slips in and out of catchy hooks and technically sound orchestral song writing.

The discourse between the dueling guitars — acoustic and electric — places the listener into perfect attunement with the melodies and growl vocals. Dysthymia sounds like chaos tamed and controlled. This works to the project’s advantage on album highlights — the title track and especially “Reaper’s Helpers,” where Royburger is structurally coherent enough to be catchy yet throw enough curve balls to keep you invested for the full 10+ minutes. “Fade” and “Jerk Pitch Rape” that close the record are impressive on all fronts, but the instrumentation on these two pieces is splendid.

It is not only technically challenging and perfectly executed as a piece of musical literature, but it is also an album that demands the listener’s attention and ability to think on a multitude of spectrums they may not be used to. Overall, Dysthymia is an album that takes the listener on a cerebral journey through many mysterious and technically awe-inspiring landscapes that not so many groups are able to achieve.

Dysthymia is available from Bandcamp here

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2235363591/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/transparent=true/

Organic Hallucinosis

“I remember when I first heard DECAPITATED’s ‘Organic Hallucinosis’ and it just blew me away!!!!”–Tomas Haake, (MESHUGGAH). This was in the context of Vitek’s unfortunate death, at the age of 23.

Importance of Decapitated cannot be exaggerated. Intensity aside, that layered pattern of rhythm, leads and drumming — synchronized and complex. Whether it’s “Day 69”, “Post(?) Organic” or the intricately progressive “A Poem About an Old Prison Man” – Organic Hallucinosis shifts technical death into demanding musical terrains. And Decapitated accomplishes that by remaining rooted in old school structures.

Extending the scope of an established genre mandates more than just musical skill – a broader grasp of the context is equally crucial. Essentially, the album captures those alien progressive tendencies into the confines of a tried and tested death framework. Needless to say, it’s a surgical balancing act. Sheer progressive melody brewed into old school death — and without significant deviations from the genre playbook. In short, Organic Hallucinosis is a ruthless exhibition — of musical and aesthetic craftsmanship. A masterful swan song too.

Vitek (R.I.P. 2007)

By Selbymay (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Review: Painted Black – Raging Light

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Lisbon based progressive metal visionaries PAINTED BLACK released their second full length album, and follow up to their 2014 EP Quarto Vazio back in October via Wormhole Death. Titled Raging Light, you may need to ensure your seatbelts are fully adjusted as you are in for one hell of a journey.

Raging Light constantly keeps you guessing as it meanders through a varied assortment of quirky time signatures, hitting you at every turn with ruthless blastbeats and piercing vocals as the quintet encapsulate you in a maze of riffs. In particular, the combination of “The Raging Light” and “Dead Time” are both packed to the brim with beautifully crafted insanity and just as you feel your head is about to spin off “The Living Deceiver is a welcome change of pace inundated with hypnotic riffs.

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Considering the progressive metal scene’s tendency to lean towards more extensive compositions for the most part PAINTED BLACK have devised very digestable tracks which keep the listener enticed and engaged. They combine the harmonious subtleties of OPETH, the atmospheric pace of KATATONIA and the bludgeoning force of DARK TRANQUILLITY to devastating effect but where they particularly shine is on the album closer “Almagest,” a 17-minute prog epic. Ironically when they begin to dial down the vicious assault they are at their most captivating with eerie whispering verses and a more methodical pace.

PAINTED BLACK are clearly an intellectual and forward thinking band, and hopefully The Raging Light will bring them recognition they deserve. This is a band to look forward to in the coming years.

The Raging Light is available from Bandcamp.

Interview: PERIHELION SHIP

Perihelion Ship band

It can be said that a Finnish progressive death metal act Perihelion Ship offer an rollercoaster ride through Prog with their sophomore full-length release “To Paint a Bird of Fire.” Indeed, it feels as an album that has everything specific for the Prog genres since its inception in the late ’60s until today.

Mastermind Andreas Hammer walks us through the creative process for the new album.

Alright, first thing is first. Before we dive into all the music stuff, how’s life?

All is well. Trying to balance work, music and free time.

Speaking of new music, you have an album. What can people expect from “To Paint a Bird of Fire”?

“To Paint a Bird of Fire” is a little more straightforward than the debut, but the instrumentation is pretty much the same: a lot of Mellotron and Hammond Organ over heavy guitar riffs. The idea was to create a single 40-43 minute record to fit into one 12″ vinyl, like classic prog records. It ended up being a kind of a concept album, which is very evident in the lyrics.

There are two longs songs, two semi-long songs and two short songs, each displaying a variety of style in playing and composition, but still flowing nicely together.

To Paint a Bird of Fire

What was it like working on the album?

It was fun at first: I recorded the backing tracks for drum recordings with guitars and virtual instruments after the songs were written last year.

The drum recordings went very smoothly and we had much better environment recording drums than last time and the sound ended up fantastic.

After the final bass and guitar tracks were recorded and re-amped, things started to get slow and frustrating.

Jani (keyboards) had a lot of work in his hands and had to really push to get the keyboards done in his free time.

I recorded the vocals at home during spring and mixed them as well. This was the most frustrating part, as the songs did not end up sounding the way I had envisioned them at first. Even though Kris McCormick (production, engineering) had the skills to put everything together nicely in the end, the negative effect of these events started to show a bit on the practice room during spring. Due to the growing pressure, Jani and Jouko (bass) decided to quit the band during Summer. Thankfully we found replacements: Pirkka Maksimainen (keyboards) and Mikael Aalto (bass) have joined us. Both are very capable players.

Are there any touring plans in support to “To Paint a Bird of Fire”?

No not touring in the traditional sense; we are an independent act and don’t have the resources or time to tour. But we will play as many shows we can through the winter and next spring with the new lineup.

While we are on the subject of touring, what countries would you love to tour?

US definitely, cause that’s where most of our fans reside and I haven’t personally been there yet. I’d like to see the nature and smaller, more inner-cities as well as the west coastline.

In Europe, I personally enjoy Germany and Italy and their neighboring countries. And maybe visit the dear Sweden next door sometime.

Perihelion Ship

Who and what inspires you the most?

Inspiring art, nature and scientific advancements. For me, artworks have to have some kind of personal and emotional touch with them that shines through, and purely technical achievements do not really interest me (usually). This year, the new Pain of Salvation record as well as the new Bell Witch record are great examples of such art.

What other genres of music do you listen to? Have any of the other genres you listen to had any impact on your playing?

I still try to find great prog rock bands, but mostly I listen to underground metal and avant-garde. I do like synth/retrowave (you should check out Nightstop and their album “Streetwalker”) as well as classical piano music.

The fourth track from the new album; ‘River’s Three’, is inspired by classical guitar piece ‘Asturias’ by Isaac Albeniz, as well as the original Diablo -video game “Tristram theme” OST. Jani really nailed the Mellotron orchestrations in this song.

I really appreciate you giving us your time today. Is there anything else you would like to tell us and the fans before we wrap things up?

Thank you for the opportunity of being here. As most of our fans reside outside of Finland, it would be cool to record a live set and/or playthrough videos of our songs. You can find us on Facebook or www.perihelionship.fi

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=935251725/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/