Lunar Shadow - The Smokeless Fires - (9.5/10)
Published on August 2, 2019
Germany’s Lunar Shadow hit the scene in 2017 with their massive full-length debut of melodic heavy metal, Far From Light. And though it was one of my most-listened to releases that year, there were many (myself included) that felt like the ideas were solid but the execution left something to be desired. There was a lot of build-up, but not a lot of follow-through. Still, it was an enjoyable enough release that when their sophomore effort was announced, I knew I wanted to hear it. And I’m glad I picked this one up, because whatever it was they didn’t have before, they’ve certainly found it.
This release is a majestic symphony of fantasy and warfare, complete with all the great aspects so endearing to traditional metal lovers: dual guitar mastery, soaring falsetto vocal lines, haunting harmonies, and hard-hitting percussion that paints a musical picture as compelling as anything Boris Vallejo ever laid to canvas. This album is the total package. The combination of the melodic guitar leads with the rapid-fire drumming create a larger-than-life soundscape that carries the listener through the skies and off into unknown lands. Now you may be thinking that this sounds an awful lot like power metal – after all, couldn’t similar things be said about the iconic releases from Blind Guardian and Symphony X?
To answer that, I would say that Lunar Shadow have definitely adopted a sound that at least flirts with power metal. The piano intros, the epic harmonies, and the uplifting reverb all certainly give off that vibe. But somehow in spite of these elements, they have done a very good job of staying true to their traditional roots. Even if some of the surface elements of power metal are there to provide some flourish to the finish, the riffs that undergird the compositions are still unmistakably heavy metal. True, sometimes you have to listen a little more closely for them when the mix is dominated by so many layers of melody and harmony, but their presence is undeniable. Probably the best proof of this is in “Laurelindórenan” where there seems to be a very balanced mix of all their best traits arranged into a single track.
Obviously, not everybody is going to be as welcoming to Lunar Shadow’s brand of metal as I have been. Specifically, those who shun the more melodic bands might be put off by their incessant major-mode guitar leads that are laced through the album from beginning to end. And to such folks I would say, listen anyway, because one thing that they also do extremely well is to contrast opposing sounds beautifully, both by using different styles in various sequences as well as layering them simultaneously. If you like epic and escapist fantasy metal, I doubt you will find a more worthy release so far this year. And if you were among those who found the debut lacking, don’t sleep on this one.