Lunar Shadow – “Far From Light” (Cruz Del Sur Music)
‘Castle Theuern has fallen. The parapets have been stormed by legions of doom, the towers were melted under heavy siege’. From deep in the Bavarian forests comes Lunar Shadow, a true metal band from Germany who only formed a few years ago under the protégé like prowess of guitar prince Max ‘Savage’ Birbaum. Burned forevermore by Judas Priest at the age of 10, Birbaum then saw the wisdom of Bathory and Maiden, followed by Dissection and Trouble, while the echoes of Simon and Garfunkel from his parents own leanings remained. While anyone can be forgiven for imagining songs about swords, drinking, satan and all things generally associated with metal, Birbaum has been equally taken by the literature of Alfred Lord Tennyson and artwork of Thomas Cole, along with the more predictable likes of Robert E Howard and Tolkien. Together, these cultured and magical inspirations have formed the rich lyrical and bountiful musical basis to Lunar Shadow. It’s clear that despite his youth, Birbaum is a perfectionist and so to is it with the 8 spell bounding tracks making up this impressive debut. While offering the slightly fuzz tinged sword in drenched ale guitar sound, it’s the passionate and heart breaking melodies delivered unashamedly and in abundance that do it for the epic and warrior metal on show here. For the most part, the tracks are slow to mid tempo with plenty of ambient passages allowing for the emotion to soak into the soul, with Alex Vornam’s tender and slightly melancholic vocals adding even more expression to the power of the songs. With so much ethereality abound, one might contemplate Lunar Shadow being lightweight where it matters but no, Birbaum does not disappoint and on ‘The Kraken’ he unleashes the beast with massive riffs along with dark cascading melodies flowing as if from the stellar fretboard brilliance of Jon Nödtveidt himself. As the pace gets upped on ‘Cimmeria’ drummer Jorn Zehner fires the blast beats that contrast superbly with the incredible folk melodies as Vornam’s vocals once again bring the impassioned soul along with a few raw screams to the overpowering atmosphere here – unbelievable! There is clearly a very, very high standard on show here but nothing could prepare me for what is the best track here – and it’s a ballad. ‘Gone Astray’, which Birbaum has stated he will never play live for personal reasons, isn’t fast or heavy, but the emotional toll ringing both of love and death was simply too much, its sad melodies from Vornam’s distant vocals and Birbaum’s guitar finally going through my heart to elicit my own past memories of loss. Truly a beautiful release, “Far From Light” captures the moment and should not be missed especially for anyone seeking something magical that only music of this elite calibre can provide.