Lunatic Soul - Through Shaded Woods review


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Band: Lunatic Soul
Album: Through Shaded Woods
Release date: November 2020

01. Navvie
02. The Passage
03. Through Shaded Woods
04. Oblivion
05. Summoning Dance
06. The Fountain
07. Vyraj [deluxe edition bonus]
08. Hylophobia [deluxe edition bonus]
09. Transition II [deluxe edition bonus]

I don't know why I ever doubted Mariusz Duda.

Users of the website are more likely to know Duda through Riverside, in which he is bassist and vocalist (and, on Wasteland, in-studio guitarist as well), but he has not limited his musical endeavours to that project. Lunatic Soul is the pseudonym used for his solo work, and whilst the music put out under this name has been softer than Riverside (more of an atmospheric rock sound with greater use of electronics), it's generally retained the emotional depth Riverside deliver at their best. Walking On A Flashlight Beam was my introduction to Lunatic Soul and it's a truly charming effort that I've regularly returned to over the years; however, in the 5 years following its release, both Riverside's (Love, Fear, And The Time Machine and Wasteland) and Lunatic Soul's (Fractured and Under The Fragmented Sky) output had slightly underwhelmed me when compared with what Duda is capable of at his best, meaning I approached Through Shaded Woods with reduced expectations. Thankfully, Lunatic Soul's latest is every bit as moving and charming as I hoped it could be.

The first thing to notice is that the 'greater use of electronics' mentioned in the previous paragraph is now no longer applicable; Through Shaded Woods is mostly electronics-free, with Duda taking a guitar-centric approach this time round and synths only occasionally filling out the background of tracks. This is also apparently the first Lunatic Soul record on which Duda has played all instruments, showing that his already evident musical versatility extends to drums (most prominently displayed with the atmospheric introduction to "Oblivion"). The promo statement for the album states that Duda was influenced by Scandinavian and Slavic folk, which clearly comes through with the campfire vibes of some of the acoustic guitar work on Through Shaded Woods; opener "Navvie" is effectively a folk dance piece, with the tambourine, hoedown 'riff' and flat-four bass drum. Still, despite sounding like music for festivities, there is a darkness to "Navvie" delivered by the always soothing and melancholic vocals of Duda. This sense of melancholy pervades throughout much of Through Shaded Woods, making it a more emotionally resonant effort than large portions of Fractured and Under The Fragmented Sky.

Through Shaded Woods is the first Lunatic Soul effort released since Riverside put out Wasteland, and there are similarities at times between the two albums; I found myself mentally drifting to the singalong outro to "Acid Rain" or the rousing title track from that record on multiple instances when listening to Through Shaded Woods. Nevertheless, this new record is very much its own thing, and manages to make its six tracks (or 9, if you listen to the deluxe edition) have their own unique feels. "The Passage" initially departs from the hoedown vibes of "Navvie" for a more sedate effort with echoing, haunting vocals, before gradually morphing into something more energetic yet sinister. The title track is an exercise in patient development and layering of guitars, vocals and even one of the few instances where synths are used on the album, conjuring up an increasingly rich and powerful atmosphere.

I could speak positively about every song here, but I'll leave my last comments for "Summoning Dance"; opening with incredibly delicate acoustic guitar picking and singing, it feels intensely fragile throughout, even as the sound expands with strumming, vocal harmonies and some tastefully incorporated piano motifs. As someone who's found some of Riverside's acoustic-dominated tracks to underwhelm in the past (e.g. "Time Travellers"), I find "Summoning Dance" deeply touching in its first half, and when it transitions around the halfway mark into something more in line with Wasteland-era Riverside, it pulls off this shift in tone with ease.

Through Shaded Woods is a captivating and beguiling listen, and one that demonstrates that Duda remains as capable as ever of writing music that cuts right to the emotional core, even as it departs from previous efforts under the Lunatic Soul name. It doesn't quite displace Walking On A Flashlight Beam as my favourite Lunatic Soul record, but it's a very strong addition to a discography that had slightly flattered to deceive in recent years before its release.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Production: 8


Written on 14.11.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 3   Visited by: 94 users
14.11.2020 - 20:39
Archie 666
I never cared much about Lunatic Soul but I do like 'Through Shaded Woods'. I've always been a sucker for a combination of folk, forest and loneliness and it works for me on this record too. I like the arrangements, it's got nice melodies, got some heavier riffs too. I dig. Need to revisit their back catalogue again I think.
15.11.2020 - 18:19
Czerny Reiter
Walking on a Flashlight Beam remains to me an absolute triumph of nocturnal headphone listening. I'll be sure to give this a spin.
22.11.2020 - 06:25
Summoning Dance got me as well.
During the albums better moments, 'moving and charming' describes these aspects very nicely.

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