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Me! And My Shaaaadow! - 92%

Tanuki, April 19th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

Some metalheads seem to think creativity has fallen victim to entropy, withering away and leaving metal in a state of perpetual regurgitation of older, better ideas. While it's true many modern metal bands could be described with a single sentence - "like (band) but (comparative adjective)" - I know plenty of examples to the contrary. There are albums that can leave you as enraptured as a teenager in 1980 listening to Angel Witch for the first time. Lunar Shadow's 2017 debut Far From Light is one example; a mystic voyage dripping with atmosphere, beckoning the intrigued with an otherworldly light.

To begin with the easily quantifiable, compositions are long, winding odysseys that draw most of their influence from the emotive and arcane exemplars of NWOBHM. There are galloping riffs, countless dual-guitar leads, and an ostensibly fragile vocalist whose effectiveness can match that of the most hysterical metal banshee with pure emotion alone. Indeed, Vornam is an exceptionally gifted singer, demonstrating his range and ability to harmonize most vividly in the acoustic tracks 'Gone Astray' and 'Earendil'.

The aforementioned tracks could be likened to Ashbury's classic Endless Skies, adored by fans for acoustic passages and vocal harmonies so mystic and moving that they'd make stoic philosophers pretend they have something in their eye. In addition to NWOBHM and alternative folk rock, you can add epic metal and black metal to Lunar Shadow's steadily expanding mosaic of influence. The latter, I confess, is debatable, and I haven't noticed many others reaching this conclusion. Though I feel the trenchant, medieval-sounding tremolo passages from lead guitarist "Savage" Birbaum are highly evocative of black metal classics such as The Somberlain.

Particularly in 'Frozen Goddess' and 'The Hour of Dying', Birbaum treats us to ambitious, dark age flourishes that ebb and flow beautifully. Because passages meld into each other so smoothly, even tracks that breach the eight-minute mark feel natural and captivating. Facilitating this process is an effective and imaginative drummer. While doubtlessly too quiet in the mixing for some, I found the irregular, hihat-heavy shuffles to be perfect in volume and consistency. This applies twofold to the especially lengthy tracks such as 'The Kraken' and 'Hadrian Carrying Stones'.

This provides a segue to my main criticism of this album; it's intimidating. With eight very unique tracks averaging over eight minutes each, journeying through this album is a daunting experience that's sometimes hard to digest. Of course, I'm not implying their extreme meticulousness is their own downfall, or that it's their fault my mind kept wandering during their solos. Though a criticism I've heard - that I wholly agree with - is that compositions can be long-winded, undermining their overall articulacy.

If that's too abstract, I would say Demon Bitch's idolized debut Hell Friends is a more memorable traditional metal album, simply because it felt less like a pilgrimage. It's entirely possible Lunar Shadow got a little carried away with its erudite song structures. But if you're in the market for something scholarly, something emotional, and above all, something different, my recommendation of Far From Light should be unambiguous.