In some cases the presence of well-known musicians in a bands line-up can prove to be the downfall of a band, as the expectations often rise dramatically. For a band that makes Progressive technical Black Metal and contains members from BORKNAGAR and SPIRAL ARCHITECT, the imaginary bar is raised to very high levels. And then you have to release your debut album, on one of the biggest labels in Metal history, Earache.
This is the story of LUNARIS. This band was formed in 1998 by guitarists M and Balfori, who is also the guitar player in the band 1349 with another Metal legend, Frost of SATYRICON. Balfori switched to vocals, and they then recruited Azarak from SPIRAL ARCHITECT, and live musician of SATYRICON, on second guitar. The relatively unknown Ray was added to the band on keyboards and two demos were recorded. On the second demo "Creative Destruction" the drums were done by session member Asgeir Mickelson (BORKNAGAR, SPIRAL ARCHITECT), who had previously been the drummer of LUNARIS. Maztema, the vocalist of SPIRAL ARCHITECT and bass player for the live shows of SATYRICON, did some clean vocals on this demo and was soon added to the band as their permanent bass player.
The band then continued to record a full length album in 2001, called "… The Infinite" and after lengthy negotiations the band signed a contract with Earache subdivision Elitist Records. All the other members have made LUNARIS their full-time focus, and with the addition of Janos Di Croce as the permanent drummer soon after the recording of "…The Infinite" the band is now complete. They have a good reason to make it their full time focus, because this band plays a refreshing type of Black Metal which is technical, complex, and slightly progressive. Of course a band can't be called Black Metal without a certain degree of aggression, and a big portion of this comes from the grim vocals of Balfori. Although his vocal style is unquestionably a Black Metal style, his vocals sound a fraction different from the "standard" vocals in the genre. The great clean vocals of Maztema also contribute to a fresh vocal dimension.
But not only in the vocals, but pretty much in all aspects of the music, LUNARIS is a band that doesn't really bother with standards in Black Metal. Of course, the intense, fast and cold riffs are well-represented on the album, as well as slower, evil segments, but in no way "…The Infinite" will strike as conventional. They just take musical elements that have been done before, and give it a slightly different, and thereby interesting, twist. The production of the album is actually perfect for the music of the band, with the bass lines clearly shining through, the drums and keyboards with a leading role and the vocals right up front in the mix. The guitars don't sound really full, but I think this is also a contributor to the evil atmosphere that surrounds this record. Because the songs on the album have very distinct faces, it's rather hard to choose any songs that are representative for the album, but my personal favourites are "In The Eyes Of The Heretic", "…Of The One" (with fantastic keyboards), "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" (very evil!), "Mother Of Storms" and "Primal Construction". I can also only but praise the artwork of the album, which is finally different from all the current record album covers, done by only a select few artists and thereby looking all very similar. What is a minor problem to me is that I can't always enjoy this as much, I have to be in the right mood to listen to it.
"…The Infinite" is one of those albums that are one of a kind within a genre, without jumping too far off the general track. Therefore, this music should be accessible not only for many fans of Black Metal, but also for Metalheads that like well-played Metal. To me, LUNARIS is one of those bands that keeps the Metal scene interesting by their approach to Black Metal from a slightly different angle. (Online February 14, 2003)