Metal has, for all intents and purposes, pretty much reached the peak of how far it can really go with the extremity and weirdness while still remaining in its musical sphere and not moving into genres like noise or purely avant-garde. Subgenre movements like brutal slamming deathcore, atonal death metal, and noisegrind have been pushing the limits of slowness, weirdness, and overall listenability into strange, bizarre, wonderful new territories, and although the experimentation is certainly welcome, after a certain line is crossed, the returns start to diminish quickly, and what we’re left with as a musical community is a handful of bands that are great in the context of a clambering race to the tipping point, but really don’t serve much purpose for a listener who wants something, you know, metal. Don’t get me wrong – I love Gigan, Jute Gyte, and probably any other ridiculous and ‘unlistenable’ band you could throw my way, but shit, what’s a guy to do at this point if he’s looking for something more reminiscent of the classic sound?
Enter the new wave of traditional heavy metal (NWOTHM). A growing subgenre with a surprisingly strong basis in the punk scene, younger groups are channeling the spirit of classic sounds that defined metal in previous generations. Invoking a hefty, muscular combination of power metal, hard rock, and traditional heavy metal (hence the name), bands like Sumerlands, Crypt Sermon, and Atlantean Kodex are starting to pick up on a sound that has, for the most part, been lost to time, only carried forward still by legacy acts and surviving classics. Properly rejuvenating heavy meal in this way is no easy task; these bands work hard to put their own personal brand on a genre that they’re essentially reviving out of nostalgia – not an emotion that typically leads to great music. What’s great, though, is that a good number of these bands are are succeeding in this effort, and Lunar Shadow are no exception to this.
Although Far From Light certainly shows a band that has done their homework on how to perfectly emulate the beefy gallop of traditional metal, it’s also apparent from just a cursory listen that these dudes really feel the metal in their fucking bones. Every track is packed to the brim with truly epic melodies, muscular, punchy rhythmic work, and vocals that fall somewhere between the smooth drawl of Ozzy Osborne and the full-throated gusto of Bruce Dickinson. A delicate balance is struck between the pedal to the metal, thumping approach of power metal bands like Blind Guardian and the monolithic mid-pace of doom like Candlemass for what is, essentially, a perfect fusion of all the classic metal elements. If you’ve ever listened to any of those bands or artists, you know what to expect here, but what’s truly surprising is how Lunar Shadow pulls this combo off with aplomb and flair, tempering each influence in relation to the others.
Besides just writing kickass metal songs, what Lunar Shadow does really, really well is combine their influences, drawn from across the canon of 80’s and 90’s classic metal, into a brew that doesn’t rely too strongly on reminiscence of any singular act. Musical nostalgia tends to fail when it narrows its influences too much to a specific group or sound, trying to emulate one exclusive phenomenon as opposed to draw from a wide variety of legacies; bands that don’t broaden their sensibilities enough fall victim to just sounding like cover bands and end up purposeless, forgotten, or both. Look at, for instance, Gruesome and Horrendous, two old-school death metal bands that both depend on the nostalgia for classic death metal for their immediate appeal: the former stakes its name solely in imitating the sound of Death, and while they certainly do sound like Death quite a bit, it’s not enough to drum up any real interest. Why listen to Gruesome when the real deal is still easy to find, and has far more songs to their name? Horrendous, on the other hand, don’t set out to model themselves after one specific group, but after the sound of the scene as a whole, and are able to bring together vastly different strands in the name of a band that celebrates the whole movement.
Across Far From Light, there are moments that smell of Iron Maiden, or the aforementioned Blind Guardian, or Dio, or any other classic metal band, but these are merely small points of obvious influence in a whole tapestry woven with care and personality, one where the listener is all too eager to get lost in the intricacies and nuances that Lunar Shadow can call their own. All told, this record certainly won’t be for everyone – those that turn their nose up at nostalgia or gravitate exclusively towards the strangeness of metal’s outer rims will find little to love in Far From Light – but for those of us that have been hankering for something timeless yet fresh, new and yet immediately familiar, powerfully nostalgic but also meritorious beyond that realm, there’s little to find fault in with this debut record. Loving in their craft, meticulous in their knowledge, and an absolute joy to listen to, any metal fan looking for something that takes a classicist’s approach to the genre with a modern flair should be sure to give Lunar Shadow a listen.
. . .
Far From Light will be released on March 10th through Cruz Del Sur Records. You can preorder copies of the album here.