Review Summary: "You don't talk to me anymore..."
Mariusz Duda has made an intriguing shift in his work over the last few years. Riverside's Love, Fear, and the Time Machine
started what at the time seemed like an intriguing new chapter for the band, one that contrasted the darker, more isolated feeling of their earlier work by taking on a more optimistic and hopeful outlook. As Duda soon had to confront personal tragedy in life, both due to the death of guitarist Piotr Grudzinski and then his own father, his work on Lunatic Soul would also be impacted. Rather than returning to a darker sonic template, however, Fractured
actually continues the brighter, more hopeful trajectory started on the last Riverside album, making for the most approachable Lunatic Soul album to date.
Where prior Lunatic Soul albums required a bit more patience of the listener, Fractured
is much more immediately accessible and rewarding. Although Duda remains as serious as ever in his craft, the album is more uptempo and fun to listen to in ways that previous Lunatic Soul albums never aspired to, with an increased electronic influence that is consistently well-utilized. Opener 'Blood on the Tightrope' is a prime example of this shift in tone, starting with an almost danceable bass groove and later adding synths, piano flourishes, and a hooky, falsetto-laden chorus. 'Anymore' shows off Duda's talent in writing catchy rock songs, featuring poignant, melancholic hooks complemented by an uptempo riff set and another healthy dose of synths. 'Moving On' fully embraces the 80's influence, sounding like something out of a Depeche Mode album in the best possible way. Duda's vocals remain a highlight of any work he does, and Fractured
is no exception.
In addition to its melodic strengths, Fractured
also continues the trend that Walking on a Flashlight Beam
started by incorporating more progressive rock elements into the Lunatic Soul template. This is seen most directly in 'A Thousand Shards of Heaven', the album's grand 12-minute epic that starts as a sweeping ballad and gradually unfolds into a rhythmic instrumental showpiece. 'Red Light Escape' is the album's most engaging track musically, featuring a Riverside-quality instrumental interlude capped off by a magnificent saxophone solo. The songwriting and greater focus on free-flowing instrumental sections make Fractured
feel, at the very least, more in the spirit
of a Riverside album than previous Lunatic Soul material has been, while remaining sonically distinct from that project. Accordingly, Duda's bass playing is some of the best work of his career, providing the backbone for the album.
is easily the best album that Duda has produced so far from the Lunatic Soul project. It's lean, free of filler, and consistently engaging musically. Although it's a shame that much of the inspiration had to come from personal tragedy, it's also inspiring to see Duda's grief processed through his music in a way that makes it feel all the more authentic and approachable. The melancholic nature of his work still remains, but the move toward a more optimistic, hopeful outlook has helped make some of Duda's most inspired work yet, and suggests that he is not slowing down any time soon.