Review Summary: An intriguing incentive but not the best of executions6 of 6 thought this review was well written
What happens when your taste in music is so eclectic that your main band can’t serve as the only outlet for the creative juices flowing within your veins? Well then you start a solo project obviously. Well that’s the thought that occurred to Mariusz Duda who serves as the de facto band leader of the Polish Progressive Rock/Metal band Riverside
, which has released 4 albums since their inception in 2001. Riverside
is a great platform for Mariusz’ ambient, progressive rock, and metal influences, but he needed one for ‘oriental music’ of which he is an avid admirer. This led to the birth of the project named Lunatic Soul
(a term of endearment perhaps?).
musical direction is more in line with experimental music than with that of Riversides’
, and with the absence of the electric guitar it showcases Mariusz’ relative adeptness with other instruments including the keyboards, ukulele, kalimba, and even the percussions. This prospect was fascinating for me since this music wasn’t afraid to push boundaries by focusing on moods and interesting instrumentation while managing to avoid being pigeon-holed into a specific genre.
While speaking about the first two albums Mariusz said “the story is about death and a journey through the afterlife,” with each album comprising one of these topics. This album, also known as the “black” or “dark” album, deals with the former subject. This is reflected in the music as well as in the lyrics, with the general atmosphere throughout being relatively melancholic. It seems as if Mariusz isn’t too enthusiastic about rosy love songs.
Mariusz chooses thought provoking subjects to write about, however since English isn’t his first language his articulation can be questionable at times. Nonetheless it’s not too difficult to figure out that the lyrics refer to death in one way or another so Mariusz’ relative lack of eloquence can be forgiven.
Musically this album feels honest and has quite a few interesting moments which are demonstrated immediately with the short intro giving a taste of some of the dreary elements that encompass the rest of the album. Most of the compositions focus on the use of percussive instruments, acoustic guitars, vocal layering and keyboards for the majority of the music. With the bass guitar, flute, guzheng and additional instruments being used to accentuate the main foundation of each song. This works well on a lot of the tracks including “The New Beginning” and “Summerland”, and indeed a few songs have that ‘oriental’ feel that Mariusz was hoping to embody. As a result the songs exude a certain freshness that keeps them interesting. The vibe throughout is usually pretty relaxed, but is intensified in some songs with the aid of the drum and bass work, such as in songs like the title track. The vocal work is what you’d expect from Mariusz with good emotion and frailty that fits the music well, especially the lyric-less vocals with multiple harmonies. Most of those are just fantastic like on “Summerland,” magnifique.
At times though the songs can feel too placid as a few of the climaxes take a while to reach, the biggest example being on “The Final Truth.” Another problem is that when the main concept is concerned with death you would expect the music to evoke that feeling, but it can feel like the music and lyrics are detached at certain times. There should have been more experimentation with ominous sounds and vocal effects to try and create a tense backdrop which invokes the morbidity of death. Now I’m all for subtlety and minimalism but it’s not as easy as it may seem, the compositions need to have the depth to be able to immerse you into the environment which they have created, and that’s largely where this album is lacking.
The biggest issue I feel is the production. The production for an album which is relying on atmosphere and moods to try and reach a level deeper than your average rock album plays a pivotal role in the feeling and gravity of the album. The production isn’t bad, but neither is it as good as it should be for an album of this nature. The percussions, keyboards and sound effects aren't up to the mark at times and thus can take away from the intention that the music was composed for. It’s unfortunate because this album really could’ve had a greater effect with better production. I usually get accused of being too critical I guess that’s a curse that I’m going to have to live with.
Having said all that this album is still quite engaging, especially when listened to in the right mood, and can prove more ‘appropriate’ on those days when you can’t seem to see that good old Sun shining everywhere you go.
• The New Beginning
• Lunatic Soul
• Where the Darkness is Deepest