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.

In Concert: Three Ways, Progressing

Thank You Scientist with Bent Knee and Entransient at The Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids Michigan, June 13, 2019.

“There’s only one way to rock!” — Sammy Hagar

Well, that’s one school of thought.  But after this downtown club triple-header, it struck me that (at least in theory) there can be as many paths to playing progressive music as the number of artists that give it a shot.  On Thursday night, three fine young bands unwittingly tested my hypothesis, approaching their music in three very different, equally valid ways.

Grand Rapids’ own Entransient, fresh from a showcase gig at Florida’s RosFest, kicked things off.  The quintet’s 3-song, 30-minute set of “melodic neo/post-prog rock” refined readily admitted influences (Anathema, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Pineapple Thief) into their own unique blend, with a rich sound and atmosphere.  While guitarist Doug Murray and drummer Jeremy Hyde were standout players, the group as a whole (fronted by Scott Martin on subtly tasty keys and fierce vocals) was thrillingly tight and professional.  Prog metal bands are a dime a dozen these days, but Entransient has a distinctive, readily appealing touch. As they blaze a fresh trail in a genre that easily collapses into cliche, they’re well worth a listen.

By contrast, Bent Knee dove into their local debut determined to sound like nobody but themselves.  With Courtney Swain’s sweeping synth sounds and bracing, uninhibited singing to the fore, the Boston sextet blew through a clutch of mostly new material, including the recent single “Catch Light”.  Their sound is artful, cinematic and immersive — a unpredictable, unstoppable rollercoaster ride of dynamic, rhythmic and textural contrasts and transitions, underpinning allusive, cryptic lyrics.  You’re pulled in, put through the wringer — then ejected, safe and smiling!  It was a joyful, cathartic set, and the biggest crowd of the night readily caught the vibe; Swain made a lovely announcement about how she doesn’t like to compare audiences, but she loved this one.  Their closer “Lovemenot” launched guitarist Ben Levin and bassist Jessica Kion into full pogo mode, with Levin gleefully diving offstage to cap the evening.  An impressive, enjoyable experience — and a real revelation to me; I’d go see Bent Knee again in a heartbeat! (Photos below by Robert Henry)

 

To wind things up, Thank You Scientist pumped up the energy another level; the heady mix of Snarky Puppy-ish jazz/funk chops and Mars Volta-like whiplash transitions could have come from no other band.  Focusing on the brand new album Terraformer for their 90-minute set, the virtuoso New Jersey septet reeled off complicated riffs, head-spinning solos and breakneck unison lines with awesome precision, with Salvatore Marrano’s idiosyncratic falsetto vocals soaring over the adrenalized counterpoint.  To be honest, I found TYS’ non-stop barrage relentless to the point of exhaustion at times; good thing founder/guitarist Tom Monda whipped out his Chinese shamisen to change the pace on an instrumental rhythm section feature.  Great horn work from Sam Greenfield on sax and Joe Gullace on trumpet then set up a towering version of Terraformer’s title track, with violinist Ben Karas and Monda tearing it up as Marrano’s surreal narrative brought the delighted audience into the home stretch.

So yeah — there’s more than one way to rock — and to progress — and each of these committed, talented bands proved it!  Enjoy them when they hit your town.

 

— Rick Krueger

Setlists:

  • Entransient
    • Sirens
    • Weaker Hearts
    • The Weight of Things
  • Bent Knee
    • Way Too Long
    • Hold Me In
    • Land Animal
    • Catch Light
    • Garbage Shark
    • Golden Hour
    • It Happens
    • Leak Water
    • Lovemenot
  • Thank You Scientist
    • Wrinkle
    • FXMLDR
    • Swarm
    • Blood on the Radio
    • Son of a Serpent
    • [Shamisen/Rhythm Section Feature]
    • Poop Magician
    • Chromology
    • Anchor
    • Mr. Invisible
    • Terraformer
    • Encore: My Famed Disappearing Act

Progtoberfest: Day 3 Report

by Rick Krueger

As I entered Reggie’s Rock Club on the final day of Progtoberfest, the Virginia band Kinetic Element were winding up their set.  From the merch stand (where Discipline’s Matthew Parmenter was kind enough to make change for me as I bought CDs), their take on classic prog, spearheaded by keyboardist Mike Visaggio, sounded accomplished and intriguing; I wished I could have arrived earlier and heard more.  Plus, you gotta love a band with a lead singer in a kilt!  (Props to Progtoberfest’s Facebook group admin Kris McCoy for the picture below.)

Kinetic Element

The second high point of the festival for me followed, as fellow Detroiters Discipline held the Rock Club spellbound with their baleful, epic-length psychodramas. Matthew Parmenter reeled in the crowd with his declamatory vocals and emotional range; from there, the quartet’s mesmerizing instrumental interplay kept them riveted. The well-earned standing ovation at the end felt oddly cathartic, as if the audience was waking from a clinging nightmare, blinking at the newly-rediscovered daylight — even while rain clouds and colder temperatures rolled in outside.

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Continue reading “Progtoberfest: Day 3 Report”