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Luna’s Call – Void Award winner

Luna’s Call
Void
by Ian Yeara at 15 May 2021, 11:03 AM

This is the first real Progressive Death Metal album I’ve received as a promo in so long, I’m not sure I can remember what the last one was. I love most Prog Death and it’s actually one of my favorite genres, however just like with every genre there’s a lot of dreck out there and when I sit down to listen to a new Prog Death album there’s a few specific things that can go wrong (obviously just my opinion, everyone’s tastes are different).

First of all, when you’re going to write any kind of Prog album, I don’t know if this is necessarily the first thing you should think about, but it’s the most important: variety. You know how they say it’s the spice of life? Well, I can’t tell you how sick I am of Prog Death/Black Metal albums that have lots of weird time signature changes and polyrhythms, but there ends up being very little variety in sounds, in styles (which in my opinion is a grievous sin, Prog is supposed to be combining of many styles and feels to make something unique or at least intriguing), and very importantly in the style of vocals.

The point of all of this is that these guys avoid almost every pitfall I can think of when it comes to my personal taste in Progressive Death Metal. It’s got heavy breakdowns, it’s got moments that almost feel a little Deathcore, just a touch, but then it’s got clean sections too and lots of vocal harmony. The bass player really gets to show what he can do which I love, the guitars are really well mixed and just have the perfect amount of insanity going on in the riffs.

There are moments where these guys are channeling OPETH, and in the same song they might channel BTBAM for a bit so they definitely have the eclectic aspect of Prog down which I love. Despite being so chaotic in sound, the songwriting is actually really tight, none of the songs feel like fragments thrown together with little thought given to the transitions, they’re just really good songs with extended forms.

I had never heard of this band before, but this kind of Prog Death is right up my alley and by the time the first full track was over, I knew I was going to love this album. "Signs" is a perfect representation of this whole album; it opens up with more traditional Death Metal riffs and vocals, but it quickly gets proggy with the strings laying down a menacing background, and switching between straight forward riffs and more technical ones. I feel like I have a tendency to take this kind of drumming and guitar playing for granted sometimes, but I cannot imagine how challenging that is to actually play and put together in the studio. So kudos to Liam Underdown and Neil Purdy on guitar, as well as Jamie Batt on drums, there’s some crazy stuff on this album and they deserve the praise. Around the two minute mark is when I have no choice but to really get into the OPETH influence.

Everything these guys learned about Progressive Death Metal it definitely feels like they learned it from Mikael Åkerfeldt. That’s not any kind of slight or insult, in fact this album does a lot of things that I wish OPETH would do, or I guess would have done because this is definitely early 2000s era OPETH. Then as we get into the second half of the song the tone changes and this is where the band really forms there own identity, although I must say Neil’s clean vocals sound like this weird cross between Tommy Rogers (BTBAM) and Åkerfeldt himself, and from the effects they use in a couple of sections they sound like they’re sampling BTBAM’s clean sections. Again not a negative or an insult or anything, just something I find amusing. Once we get passed all of that like I said the album really finds its own identity and settles in for an incredible 50 minute ride of bombastic, symphonic progressive death metal.

Okay so how many bands have the balls to follow up the 8 minute first track with a 13 minute track and obviously the longest song on the album. "Solar Immolation" definitely sounds like OPETH, but it’s so fresh to my ears, maybe it’s because I know every inch of the OPETH discography, but this feels like AGE OF ARTEMIS dropped "Overcoming Limits", or CALADAN BROOD dropping "Echoes of Battle". I love ANGRA and SUMMONING, but both AGE OF ARTEMIS and CALADAN BROOD managed to emulate their sounds and even surpass those bands in some ways. I hope this comparison makes sense to more than just me.

Anyway I want to get away from talking about OPETH for a bit because these guys are so much more than an OPETH clone or worship band. It’s like they’ve taken the bones of "Blackwater Park" or "Ghost Reveries" and just tried to go as nuts as possible, all the strings in the background, some out of this world guitar playing and some pretty bluesy chords just make this an absolute treat to listen to. Oh, also, I feel it worth mentioning, in the back half of this song they break down into this really funky section that almost reminds me of some moments from BTBAM albums over the years, but with it’s own unique flavor.

Gods that's only covering the first 23 or so minutes of the album. The rest of it is just as good, though I will say so far I find myself revisiting the first half far more. "Enceladus & The Life Inside" is a melancholy track, almost a ballad, well really the closest thing to a ballad a band like this is going to write. Mournful strings drenched in despair accompanied by acoustic guitar that meshes perfectly with the strings.

Finally, on "Locus" I can hear the bass! Sorry Brett Laver, but until this song I really couldn't hear your playing, but now I can and it's awesome. I mean it really reminds me of the brilliant bass-work on "Blackwater Park" which is always some of the highest praise I can give a Progressive Death Metal band. This one's just more eclectic and energetic switching back and forth from clean vocals to harsh vocals, but the instrumentation underneath is always interesting. I've been trying to figure out which OPETH song specifically this reminds me of; it's got to be "Drapery Falls", but with less acoustic guitar and more eclectic riffing.

Then we get back to some damn heavy Death Metal. The riffs on "In Bile They Bathe" are absolutely filthy, matching well the title of the song. Then we get "Silverfish" as a nice little instrumental interlude. It's got that special Dorian tinge where it's got a lot of sadness to it, with brief moments of hopefulness.

I don't usually like talking about every single song on an album in a review, but this is a fairly short album and each song has something unique to offer. "Fly Further Cosmonaut" is the second longest track at 9 minutes; it starts out with blazing riffs and growls, but by the 2 minute mark it slows down and brings down the energy level until about 3 minutes in when the guitars come back and we get back into the intricate proggy riffs. I wonder if I missed this on previous songs, but I noticed the organ on this song and it definitely adds a nice touch. I can see people having an issue with this song because the pacing seems to be a bit start and stop, but as a Prog fan this is the kind of eclecticism that I love. There’s definitely some shades of BARREN EARTh in the whole album, but especially on this song. There’s even a brief saxophone part.

I just love this band’s throwing the kitchen sink approach, this is no holds barred progressive death metal that swings from sounding like OPETH, to WILDERUN, to BTBAM and then to BARREN EARTH all in one song. It’s really quite remarkable how many influences they packed into one album.

I know I’ve made a lot of comparisons to other bands, but I’m not trying to take away from their originality. There may be “nothing new under the sun”, but these guys take all their influences and combine them in some pretty clever ways. This album is heavier than WILDERUN, more bombastic than OPETH and much more concise than BTBAM. Not to mention what a phenomenal way to end the album, "Fly Further Cosmonaut" ends on the most wild cadence with blast beats and everything, not to mention the strings and synth give everything a theatrical flair that really helped sell the album to me.

If I had one complaint it’s more to do with the mix than the songwriting. The mix and production sound great, I won’t deny that, but there’s a lot being covered up under the guitars and vocals at times and it would be nice to hear more bass and keys throughout. Even so, this is a bloody brilliant album and I don’t know if it’s perfect, but it’s pretty damn close. I’m just upset I didn’t find out about these guys until this year because it would definitely have made my top 5 in 2020, please go check this band out, you won’t be disappointed.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Merced’s Footsteps
2. Signs
3. Solar Immolation
4. Enceladus & The Life Inside
5. Locus
6. In Bile They Bathe
7. Silverfish
8. Fly Further Cosmonaut
Lineup:
Brad Laver – Bass, Vocals
Jamie Batt – Drums
Neil Purdy – Vocals, Guitars
Liam Underdown – Guitars
Record Label: Listenable Records
     


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