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The northern moon graces the Mediterranean. - 86%

hells_unicorn, March 15th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2006, CD, Burning Star Records (Digipak)

The proverbial wave of mid-1990s Gothenburg's musical offspring, namely melodic death metal, had seemingly come and gone by the time a full decade had passed. The dissolution of At The Gates, and the stylistic changes made by In Flames left the sub-genre's homeland at something of a loss while countries like Finland were merging even greater power metal tendencies into the formula and the American pioneered metalcore variant was in full swing. But like any thing in motion, sounds have a way of continuing to spread and as nations further outside the focal point of northern Europe receive them, some curious variations can come about. Though bands like Spain's Dawn Of Tears and their fellow melodeath compatriots formed several years earlier, Lunarsea made a fairly sizable impression with their 2006 debut effort Hydrodynamic Wave and was later picked up by Punishment 18 Records, a label known primarily for bringing the thrash revival craze to Italy and for a number of old school death metal acts, as a sort of token melodic death attraction.

Often when an older sound starts to gain a foothold in new territory, the earlier adherents will take a conservative approach and simply retread the more primitive musical grounds. This band takes a fairly different approach by merging the power metal tendencies of Kalmah and Skyfire with the more traditional songwriting structures of Dark Tranquility and older In Flames, and throws in some clean vocal work reminiscent of later Eternal Tears Of Sorrow and even a few metalcore trimmings here and there. Naturally the overall flavor is tilted heavily towards a late 90s Swedish meets early 2000s Finnish sound, complete with strategic keyboard usage and shred-happy lead guitar gymnastics after the mold of Hatebreeder, and a evenhanded mixture of high speed thrashing riff work and more mid-paced, Iron Maiden tinged melodic splendor. Super catchy guitar-oriented monsters like "Hate Net On Barren Heart" and "Quebenauts" could almost be mistaken for select songs off In Flames' Colony, save the clean vocal passages and Fabiano Romagnoli's Alexi Laiho meets Michael Amott solos.

In contrast to a number of well-respected offerings of both the traditional and more power metal oriented sides of the coin, this album manages to present a compact and well-rounded group of songs without becoming overly formulaic. Driving anthems with a thrashing power edge like "Beside The Driver" and "Evolution Plan Txt" play the impact factor up nicely and definitely cut away from the tendency towards sticking too closely to mid-paced territory (one of the pitfalls of both Whoracle and Haven). By way of contrast, the atmospheric and ballad-leaning "Solstice Woman" presents an almost acoustic-jam element that is somewhat along the lines of a few spots on The Jester Race, but with some clean vocals thrown in to give it a slight metalcore edge. The shred happy and keyboard rich instrumental offering "Onirica Frequencies" is the absolute coup de grace of the bunch (no disrespect to vocalist Angelo Musmeci, who does a competent raspy and slightly blackened wail reminiscent of Mikael Stanne), running the mill of technical devices normally reserved to Skyfire and showcasing the prowess of the drums to the fullest.

Though this has generally remained a fairly obscure offering compared to the prime movers that influenced it and has largely been forgotten following its 2012 re-release via Punishment Records 18, as an overall musical offering it tops a number of highly visible albums from a number of the bigger names circa the turn of the millennium. It's a definite boon for any fan of Children Of Bodom who has struggled with the material that came after Follow The Reaper, along with those who may go for the power metal trappings of Kalmah and the technical and progressive leanings of Skyfire, but want them in slightly smaller doses. About the only thing that can really be listed as a downside is that it does shy away from going long and largely keeps to traditional songwriting patterns, in spite of the diverse array of influences within what may otherwise be called an orthodox approach. It is definitely distinctive enough to avoid being mistaken for any of the aforementioned bands when taken in its entirely, and the quality factor at work here is such that it can stand toe to toe with many of the classics of the late 1990s.

Scanning the flat universe. - 80%

Diamhea, March 8th, 2018

Lunarsea seriously impressed me way back when I first heard Hundred Light Years, which seems like ages ago - because it was. I worked my way back through their discography, finding Route Code Selector a worthy precursor despite some production imbalances, but reaching as far back as Hydrodynamic Wave, I found some marked discrepancies in Lunarsea's approach. I suppose "growing pains" of some manner are to be expected, but this album actually appeals to me in a partially distinct manner. Production is also stellar, giving Romagnoli's virtuous shredding wide breadth alongside the atmospheric, Dark Tranquillity-esque synths.

This framework is a familial sighting in the melodeath field, and Lunarsea certainly don't break the mold entirely here, although it is certainly stressed at points. One of those examples is definitely "Beside the Driver," a rather catchy anthem-esque tune with a somewhat poppy chorus. It almost sounds like a mess, but it just works. Clean vocals are utilized, as per usual with these Italians, but they are more melodic than on Hundred Light Years. Musmeci's nihilistic gutturals conform well with the clinical picking sequences that litter the album. Lunarsea are an extremely tight unit, making some of the compositionally pedestrian sections more bearable, although hooks generally come fast and plentiful enough to satiate.

Also worth noting is that some of these tracks have persisted since the band's demo days, so tunes like "Evolution Plan.txt" and "Dead End Road, He Walked" feel riffier and make better use of the Skyfire-esque synths. I also really liked those warped, distorted acoustic sections on "Smokers." Lunarsea's level of competence and collective musicianship is their biggest ace in the hole, evident during the sublime instrumental "Onirica Frequencies," which certainly isn't without its moments of technical opulence.

Honestly, Hydrodynamic Wave fits nicely next to the band's other two records. It isn't quite as fast as Hundred Light Years or focused as Route Code Selector, but it has lush atmosphere and tight riffing. Lunarsea have enough nuance and distinction to continually appease my tired ears, so adventurous melodeath fans should check these guys out. They have their moments of typical Italian weirdness, but always deliver what really matters: a sore neck.

Tide is high! - 85%

Xyrth, March 3rd, 2011

Italian quintet Lunarsea’s debut, Hydrodinamic Wave, is a fairly decent and fresh, though not entirely innovative, take on one of metal’s most polemic genres: melodic death metal. In a similar manner to Scotland’s Mendeed (who now sadly are no more), Lunarsea’s melodeath has some power metal influence as well as a little tiny bit of american metalcore. This might seem as a bad thing to some, but actually it works out quite nicely, making their music more original in a fairly saturated genre as melodic death metal is. They have a sound of their own, and that’s a feature most melodeath bands can’t claim to have.

Hydrodinamic Wave has two "poker-faced" elements that will either turn on or off metalheads alike. The first thing is the clean vocals, heavily used here. They’re kind of middle ground between modern metalcore clear ones and european power metal delivery, and though not terrible at all (some of the choruses are pretty catchy) they’re not outstanding either most of the time and that’s one of the reasons this album didn’t get a higher score from me.

The second element is the prominent use of keyboards, though for me this is actually a highlight of this band’s music, for they’re used quite diversely, sometimes providing a lush atmospheric background for the other instruments, whilst other times they’re right there at the forefront of the composition, leading the others, without them becoming pure keyboard-wankery. The use and diversity of the keyboards reminds me of Amorphis, though a bit less excellent.

As for the rest of the instruments, they’re ok. The bass is the less prominent of them. It mostly follows what the guitars are doing. Speaking of which, they’re the highlight of this record along with the keys. They riffs go from tender and delicate to pretty fast, and most of the melodies are enjoyable and memorable, though typical melodeath all the way. The solos are fairly strong also, using a vast array of techniques to make them truly unique in each song. Sometimes they’ll be more mellow and simpler like on the “ballad” of the album, “Solstice Woman” or more of an almost technical nature as in the excellent instrumental “Onirica Frenquecies” or even in the less impressive “Quebenauts”.

The raspy harsh vocals and the triggered drums feel kind of week, but that’s mostly the fault of the production here, which is a bit thin. If you want to listen what this band really should sound like grab their second album, which has a much better production. You’ll hear that Daniele Biogiatti’s vocals are actually way meatier than what they seem in Hydrodinamic Wave. As for the drums, they also provide their share of quality and contribute to make this record a fine example of european melodeath done right, varying between decently fast blast-beats and power metal-like double bass, to patterns of triplets and simple 4/4 rhythms.

So if you feel a bit disappointed in the latest Dark Tanquillity’s outputs, grab this one and enjoy riding a decent wave of melodeath. The ride will be pleasurable and it probably will leave you craving for a second one. You might also like to check the band’s second release as well.

My choicest cuts: the (hydro)dinamic opener “ Beside The Driver”, second punch “Hate Net On Barren Heart”, “Evolution Plan.txt” and the magnificent “Onirica Frequencies”, my favorite of the record.