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Lunar Shadow - The Smokeless Fires Award winner

Lunar Shadow
The Smokeless Fires
by Chris Hawkins at 19 June 2019, 6:11 AM

In writing all these years about Metal, one topic that has seemed to always arise is the difference between European and American bands.  Concisely put, there is a clear, distinct air of the rich Classical music heritage evident in European bands that generally appears lacking in the more direct, brutal approach of American bands.  This is stated in the most macro and general terms as there is a compendium of exceptions to the rule.  However, such a statement is beyond apparent in the music of Germany’s LUNAR SHADOW.  The band formed in 2014 and are about to release their sophomore effort, “The Smokeless Fires,” in a matter of days.  This is an album that will cause even the most jaded, cynical of eyebrows to raise for it is a markedly fresh, intense, accomplished take on classic Heavy Metal.

A delicately-performed, somber piece of piano music serves as the introduction of the album’s first track, “Catch Fire”.  After the tenderly-played keys resolve the melody, we are greeted by an anthemic guitar line which then launches into a hyperactive section of Speed Metal.  It is over two minutes before the vocals enter, and the gamut of styles, from Thrash to hints of Black Metal are touched upon.  With the vocals, though, there is a regal melodic quality added with tons of harmonic layers.  Robert Röttig makes it royally apparent early that he has been touched by the gods, provided with a voice pleasing to the ear, full of emotion, and commanding a hellion’s shout that truly set this collection of righteous riffs apart from others.  It is abundantly clear early on that this is indeed a Metal gem.

Listening to this album, I cannot help but be reminded of past Teutonic greats like HELLOWEEN and their epic “Keeper of the Seven Keys”.  Though LUNAR SHADOW is definitely their own animal, undoubtedly, they are colored by the rich tradition of Metal born in their homeland.  This tradition places a glistening sheen over the material that elevates it above the rank and file and even many of the hardest hitters.

Indeed, it is all too apparent that LUNAR SHADOW have answered the call to fulfill the order of the Divine Rights of Kings.  “Roses,” the third track, is a more mellow affair albeit still replete with endless hooks, ones that seemingly pierce directly into the listener, guiding one by their very ears down paths of musical spectacle.  The solos are direct descendants of these powerful hooks, placidly embellishing them though steering clear of overindulgence.  The ability to combine legit, true Metal with such catchy elements is the stuff of legend, an act of balance that the band have rehearsed dutifully and are clearly executing fully.

A band is ultimately a team obviously composed of individuals with varying pedigrees.  Looking through the history of our beloved genre, the bands that have gone the farthest have been able to mitigate personal triumph with group success.  LUNAR SHADOW, in fact, are composed of five members all at the peak of their game which is evidenced by the stellar quality of riffs, rich bass lines, pulsing, consistent drums, and soaring vocals enmeshed with myriad attitude.  S. Hamacher, the bassist, has a keen ear knowing just when to make his presence known as he takes cues from greats like Geezer Butler and Cliff Burton as to when is the most opportune time for a slide or blitzkrieg of rapid-fire notes as a fill.  Certainly, as previously detailed, the riffs are simply top shelf and complimented by well thought-out solos that successfully further illustrate the melodic ideas.  Vocally, the stamp of originality is firmly placed upon the music with a color so unique and full of life that it is practically unrivaled.  This band has a magic not often seen and truly special.

A rich acoustic passage opens the final track, “Hawk of the Hills”.  Unexpectedly, the full band arrives bearing an anthem of Heavy Metal spectacle and bombast.  Soon, the band are in hyper-drive showcasing tremolo picking akin to Black Metal but fitting comfortably alongside the material before and after it.  Things slow down for a pensive verse line but surprisingly, the speed is kicked back on as soon as one perceives that this may be turning into a ballad.  It is apparent the band have poured their entire arsenal into the last track.  The magic moment is at 3:55 when the singer invokes his inner King Diamond with an unholy scream to pierce the thickest of glass while the band launches into a Thrash groove certain to stir mosh pits wherever performed.  This last song truly illustrates how the band are the epitome of everything Metal fans year for – they blaze their path of fire throughout leaving smoldering coals for long afterward.

With a firm low note plucked on the bass, the album succinctly ends.  Thankfully, there is no rewinding to do in this day and age – for the most part, at least.  With one click, one can be transported directly back without the need of a DeLorean or mad professor to relive the experience all over again.  In all honestly, that is what I have done as I write these last lines.  The chords and melodies have stoked a flame in this Metal heart that burns higher and hotter.  Thank you, LUNAR SHADOW – for the Metal, and showing us there is still a plethora of magic yet to be conjured from within the ether!

Songwriting:  9
Originality:  9
Memorability:  10
Production:  9


4 Star Rating

1. Catch Fire
2. Conajohara No More
3. Roses
4. Pretend
5. Laurelindórenan
6. Red Nails (For the Pillar of Death)
7. Hawk of the Hills
S. Hamacher – Bass
J. Zehner – Drums
Max – Lead Guitar
K. Hamacher – Rhythm Guitar
Robert Röttig – Vocals
Record Label: Cruz del Sur Music


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Edited 05 June 2020

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