Lunar Shadow - The Smokeless Fires
Cruz Del Sur Music
Heavy metal
7 songs (44' 29")
Release year: 2019
Cruz Del Sur Music
Reviewed by Andy

Since Lunar Shadow's latest album was introduced to me (and hinted at by Cruz Del Sur) as a black melodic album, I was expecting something like Dissection. At first, it seemed nothing like that at all, but after a few listens I got where they were putting in black metal references in the riffs. Ultimately, this is a classic heavy metal album of the Sumerlands or Haunt school, and a very good one. Younger bands have been tearing it up of late with modern interpretations of traditional material, and The Smokeless Fires is a great example of this phenomenon.

The production is rather strange but ends up working well for this sound. It's biased towards the guitar, with the clean vocals of newcomer Robert Rottig a bit more flexible than those of Alex Vornam, with a lot of reverb giving his voice a slightly otherworldly sound. Once we get past the soft piano intro of Catch Fire, the band leaps into high gear, with guitarists Max Birbaum and Kay Hamacher cranking out riff after twin-guitar riff. And yes, there are quite a few black metal blastbeats and some of the wild dissonance of that genre is present, but the band never loses its warmth -- even when taking what they're doing to its logical conclusion yields odd results. Roses has a meandering structure that pairs Rottig singing lyrics of love and perseverence on a mid-tempo beat, but it's punctuated by some of the ferocious riffing Birbaum can summon up at a moment's notice. Even Pretend, a tinkly piano ballad with Rottig sounding even further away, like he's singing in the next room, has an emotional component to it that lifts it high where its treatment by another band would leave it as filler.

As might be expected, though, The Smokeless Fires also has its share of pure balls-out riffing. Laurelindorenan's power metal sounds like a Falconer song with Sigh helping out, while Hawk of the Hills not only gets more semi-blackened (browned?) riffing, but also the full epic heavy metal treatment, befitting the final song on the album. Rottig, who usually doesn't display a wide vocal range, occasionally hits falsetto high notes or, in some cases, simply high screams.

It's clear that Lunar Shadow is not only willing to mix genres, but to experiment. Not everything they try is guaranteed to work on this sophomore album, and The Smokeless Fires shows a band that is still at the beginning of its career arc. But this has to be the most unique offering I've heard yet this year.

Bandcamp: https://lunarshadow.bandcamp.com/album/the-smokeless-fires.

Killing Songs :
Conajohara No More, Roses, Laurelindorenan, Red Nails
Andy quoted 88 / 100
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