Album Review: Lunar – Eidolon

Lunar - Eidolon

With up-and-coming bands, you get this fizzy feeling of excitement for new material. This is because, deep down, you truly want to see someone succeed in an awesome way. Success, in our environment at least, is measured largely by popularity — for better or for worse (that discussion can go on ad infinitum), it’s the nature of our beast. But, popularity doesn’t always kill the goat, despite having already killed quite a few. Some bands merely survive their self-made gauntlet; others, even fewer, completely destroy it. Enter Lunar’s newest, sophomore full-length Eidolon, out now via Divebomb Records.

The project’s path has been linear thus far. Their first album Theogony (2017) was a successful exercise in hyper-modernizing death metal for the masses, imbuing technicality and delicate songwriting without curtailing the genre’s trademark groove and heft. This debut was particularly strong not because it tried to reinvent the prog death metal genre (it didn’t); rather, it set out to execute on existing tropes with as much keen engineering as possible. Originally a project drummer Alex Bosson and guitarist Ryan Erwin, Lunar had a winning formula figured out with Theogony, and the safest bet would have been to execute on that formula as accurately as their talents and knowledge would allow. Sadly, Erwin passed away in 2018, and Bosson led by this tragedy and using it as an inspiration decided to continue the project and write Eidolon, with the help of singer Chandler Mogel, bassist Ryan Price and guitarist Balmore Lemus. Additional support came from guest performances from members of Leprous, Haken, Fallujah, and Thank You Scientist.

Up close, Eidolon is a dizzying array of finely tuned gears and switches clicking in complex operation; stand back, and Eidolon’s details blend into a focused image, revealing detailed brushstrokes, tremendous climaxes, and entrenched, darkened lows. There’s really no vantage point without a maximally stimulating view: this album is starkly forthright (e.g. the profoundly heavy chug moments) and chock full of gusto (e.g. the dizzying, effects-saturated guitar solos).

Eidolon boldly proclaims its beauty: balladic melodies emerge from nowhere, then combine to reinforce a grander, more dramatic narrative structure which unfolds consistently throughout its seven songs. The warmth and shimmer of cello on the closing epic “Your Long Awaited Void” juxtaposes the hollowed-out, bass-tightened guitars at tactical moments, but creates no discordance or feelings of instrumental mismatch. Even more, momentous swaths of blast beats follow an incomprehensible quantum logic in their ephemeral emergence; structurally, they support the guitar/bass/vocal trifecta’s ascents toward mind/body-separating precipices. Eidolon lives only in that vivid presence; ferociously forceful, it pile-drives you into a heightened state of mind.

Instrumentally, Lunar have written a veritable festival of esoteric delights: each song is a bespoke arrangement of varied vocals (guttural bellows to cliff-edge shrieks), pirouetting guitars (dancing effortlessly, methodical but fluid), and unhinged drumming (fills upon fills upon fills; also, strategic blasts). Omniscient melodies act as the thread weaving distinct guitar-led passages together; Eidolon contains a glut of ideas, but everything’s situated in a well-sutured and fully functional architecture. The album presents no puzzles, though, acting more like piece of visual art which doesn’t affect you until after deeper reflection and study. Then again, that’s not to call the album indecipherable, or even hard. Let’s call the effect subtle — and for a project so ludicrously goddamn aggressive at times, executing on a level of subtly is an achievement indeed.

Alex Bosson

Alex Bosson

“Nuance” is the word, and so is “texture.” Lunar didn’t lack these elements on their first album per se, but they weren’t the focus. Theogony was more grounded, established within itself. This time, Lunar embraces drama and atmosphere, the overwhelming feeling of triumph, and the deafening pang of defeat. Eidolon bleeds crimson red, gripping attentions with confident melodies and heretofore unseen mightiness, refusing to release until the most dramatically opportune moment. Maintaining coherence over so many sudden shifts, vocal variations, and disparate influences spells doom for most bands who decide to destroy all reservations and go wild. This album, though, solidifies as one sound formed from many. To change so much but still retain your core identity seems impossible; defeating those odds imbues this music with a special magic.

Eidolon will almost certainly grace your year-end lists, and rightfully so, if you happen to stumble upon it. It’s a behemoth accomplishment from an underrated project. Not only does it prove that progressive death metal is infinitely expansive — that popularity doesn’t always ruin bands — it demonstrates that we’re collectively championing the truly special, the ones who by the edge of their talents and the grit in their guts create something universally interesting but also undeniably peculiar and multifaceted. It’s that exact balance that Eidolon nails flawlessly. Risking it all, Lunar might just become the new hottest thing in the genre.

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