Tech Death Thursday: Luna’s Call – Void
Some big prog jams for you big prog bois
“Spear,” I can hear you saying as the first notes of “Merced’s Footsteps” wind their way out your speakers, “what the hell is this Dream Theater-ass prog shit doing on Tech Death Thursday, the correct day upon which to talk about tech death?” And to that I say… yeah, I suppose it is a bit Dream Theatery, isn’t it? But lest you hurl your laptop across the room in disgust at the prospect of being exposed to The Astonishing II, let me assure you that this is well removed from that trash. While Luna’s Call certainly goes on a big jaunty prog odyssey with Void, this is one of those rare albums that sounds like an actual evolution of that late-80’s early-90’s prog metal sound rather than a simple throwback.
Because while you’re certainly going to hear shades of older acts in here- a touch of Opeth in the acoustic compositions and rollicking feel of “Signs,” some BTBAM and the aforementioned Dream Theater in the chording and some of the weirder riffs, even some Styx and Kansas in the keyboards- it feels much more modern, more developed than those early exploratory days of progressive metal. There are grandiose string accompaniments and strange time signatures with touches of augmented chords to give it that ethereal, spacey feel in the lighter bits that feel like the opening scene of an adventure movie- all the hallmarks of lofty, indulgent prog. Luna’s Call takes all of this and builds on it in ways that throwback acts tend to miss; it’s not simply window dressing, and they’re not simply throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, but using these elements as essential songwriting tools. The ebb and flow of each song feels very natural in spite of the inherently bizarre nature of their old-school prog heritage as they follow a sort of natural “story” curve, fixing the coherency issues I had with the band’s previous outing and making the whole affair a smooth listening experience.
It might sound like the death metal parts are secondary to all this rampant proggery, but I’m pleased to say that’s not the case. It takes on a feeling somewhere between Gorod, Augury, and Parius when it gets heavy, equal parts thick groove and brilliant displays of technical aptitude through strange melodies. These parts, as with everything else, are tempered with smart songwriting and a good sense of pacing, always doing what’s best for the song as a whole and never delving too far into instrumental showboating. They’re integrated in such a way that it feels perfectly natural going straight from monster death metal riffing to serene acoustic playing, and it’s a huge part of what makes Void so captivating.
I seriously can’t get over how good these compositions are, and the instrumentation is excellent as well. The guitar tone is crisp and the bass has a ton of impact, the latter frequently playing lead in the acoustic guitar sections, a combination that’s hard to beat. A vast array of keyboard voices are on display here, from strings to chimes to leads, giving the music all kinds of unique aural texture and breathing more life into each song. This is also one of those rare cases where the growls and the clean vocals are equally good and well-utilized, neither of them feeling out of place whenever they show up.
Void is an album I’d recommend that you listen to all in one go, but if you’re intimated by the prospect of embarking on a big musical journey (or simply don’t have the time to spare), “Locus” through “Silverfish” will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect from the whole thing. This is very much best experienced as a whole, though; prog fans will want to jump on this immediately, and there’s enough heavy material here that tech death fans looking for something a little different will want to check it out too. This is some of the wildest shit I’ve heard all year, and I give it my highest recommendation. Plus, it’s got a wizard-looking dude on the cover with a rocket flying into his beard-hole. How can you say no to that?