March 3rd, 2023, will see the release of “The Illusionist” by prog rockers Lunar. Suddenly here I am reviewing another prog rock album, it feels like waiting for a bus- you wait and wait for ages, and then several turn up at once. I’m not sure whether there has been a fightback from prog rock recently, but in all seriousness, there have been some interesting albums in my drop box recently.
Based out of Sacramento, CA, LUNAR is a progressive metal band that formed in 2013 when longtime friends Alex Bosson (drums/percussion) and Ryan Erwin (guitar/vocals) (who tragically passed away in 2018) decided to get together and write the style of music that was always in their hearts: genre-defiant and free of restrictive influence.
Talking about this album Alex says,
“We are so excited to finally be able to present our new album, “The Illusionist,” to the world! This album has taken so many twists and turns for us. We started the process of writing and recording everything for this album in 2020, during lockdowns. Now, 3 years later, after so many different issues, it’s finally finished and released! Despite how difficult it was for us to finish this album, we couldn’t be more proud of it! This album has the best songwriting and production of any Lunar album to date. There is such a wide variety of sounds and influences, but the album also flows seamlessly from one song to another. And, once again, there is a huge list of amazing guest appearances from members of Obscura, Caligula’s Horse, Paladin, Emperor, Thank You Scientist and more!”
As someone who does like the odd interesting fact or two, what grabbed me about these guys is that despite the fact that many of the members of Lunar have been with the band for years and have released multiple albums together, the core members have never all been in the same room together at the same time, and many of them have never even met each other in person!
The album itself is a concept album that tells the story of a magician who questions his entire life’s work. He’s spent his entire life devoting himself to his craft, and now he questions if it was worth it. Musically, the album goes through many stages, just as the character does on his own journey. There are songs that are angry, songs that are confused, songs that are depressed, and everywhere in between.
Having got the background in place, we have the album itself…
“Prestidigitation”—this is a ‘Welcome to the Show’ moment introducing the magician. Before the guitar kick, it is partially spoken, with some gothic piano and drum sounds. The guitars are manic, and the instrumental track takes us into the head of the magician.
“The Illusionist”- This is the introduction to the character:
“You won’t believe your eyes.
Beyond what I will allow,
I have painted the smile upon my face
To brave the crowds
Draw back the curtain I’m ready to perform” © 2023 Lunar
– vocals, a combination of spoken word and singing. The music is powerful and includes a touch of dark metal here and there, along with the demonic voice, melancholy, and disintegration of a mind.
“Showtime” – We have some class guitar work here, fast and hard power metal style. The lyrics still refer to how it is about time we start the show; I did think we were well on our way now! I would say about this one that it is a heads-down rocker having fun with those guitars, with a touch of Vinnie Vincent back in his post-Kiss solo days in some of that need for speed.
“Worship The Sun”- This one I liked. Its intro had an almost Eastern feel to it; there was something in the music that took me to the East long ago. It was an experimental sound, with the guitars to the fore but plenty happening beneath them. There are some solid vocals on this one too.
“Turn Off The World”- is my favorite so far. Smooth riffs that aren’t as fast-paced, and a great melody that goes along with the thoughtful lyrics of a character who seems sad. This track would connect more to the prog-rock side of the band. A thumbs up!
“Disassembled” is multi-layered musically; there were those touches of the East again and an instrument I couldn’t place. I would imagine a huge amount of studio work went into this. It has much slower, darker lyrics.
“Juggling Chainsaws” – A song of chaos. It is heavy in sound; maybe I would have turned up the drums more in the mix. Probably my least favourite on the album, it was very technically interesting but a bit disjointed.
“For My Next Trick” – the switch to a spoken intro on time was something that worked. The music also shifts to a gentle, bass-edged instrumental. I read that the track represents a calming of the mind, and I did like it a lot.
“Now You See Me” – The album’s closer, with the magician’s final trick, an epic show where he disappears forever. Did he perform this successfully, or did he epically fail? Was he meant to disappear forever? Is he even still alive? Was he a master of his craft, and this was his plan to disappear and know peace? Do we mourn him or celebrate him? The world may never know. The track starts quite soulfully, and the vocals on this one connect us to the pain inside the character.
Album Length: 58:46
It’s difficult to express my feelings about this album in a single listen. It’s really well done technically by a band that clearly cares about their music and can play. At stages, such as on “Worship the Sun,” it is innovative and made me really love the extra touches. It reminded me of a George Harrison creative session with those exotic sounds he would help create under the Beatles melodies. On occasion, it was a bit too fast and furious for me, and sometimes I would have changed the mix a little. But they have an album to be proud of, and that cover is something worthy of an old style vinyl collection where it would be treasured.
- Album Produced by: Alex Bosson
- Album Mixed by: Linus Coreliusson
- Album Mastered by: Jens Bogren
- Album artwork by: Travis Smith
- Album layout / design by: Brian Lewis
- Member of ASCAP
By Lorraine Foley.
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