At first glance, Germany’s Lunar Shadow occupies the same epic, sweeping terrain as Atlantean Kodex, and the comparison is certainly not without merit. After all, debut full length Far From Light certainly feels grandiose through its mix of traditional metal ingredients, a deeply fantastical aura, and touches of prog (if not progressive) metal. It also shares Atlantean Kodex’s “serve the album” sense of reservation in the individual performances, all while the ingredients could almost be described in power metal terms.
Where Lunar Shadow differs, however, is largely in tempo and general busyness. It never goes warp speed, but the typically mid-tempo terrain of Far From Light is still a good bit speedier than the doom of an album like The White Goddess. The album is also absolutely rife with blazing leads (everywhere), harmonized hooks (“They That Walk the Night”), and galloping rhythms, all while maintaining a reflective and sorrowful feel. Add in some vocals that sound like some wispy combination of Yes’ Jon Anderson and Angel Witch’s Kevin Heybourne, and you get a formula that could almost be called “sad Iron Maiden.”
It certainly isn’t terribly unique, but Lunar Shadow does just enough different from their name-dropped countrymen and influences that they ought to be more than just a mild curiosity. Plus, when they’re on, they’re really on. The band displays their most unique voice on “The Hour of Dying,” and they do so by pushing the intensity, injecting their typical formula with heaps of intertwining tremolo harmonies, rapid double-kick drums, and even a touch of screaming. During certain passages, you might forget who it is you’re spinning and think you dug out an old Dawn album. Really.
Not every tune grips the listener to this level, but throughout Far From Light, all those leads and harmonies and bouncing riffs are the real damn deal. While the vocals could use a touch more confidence, and rarely incite as much of a grin as do the wailing guitars, they also rarely weaken the proceedings, and when everything is firing, they’re an essential ingredient.
In fact, the album’s only true shortcomings are its lack of efficiency and diversity past that one dance with extremity. With four tunes passing eight minutes and another three passing six, there isn’t really a track here that qualifies as a barn burner. To the benefit of the album, however, there also aren’t many obvious opportunities for editing. Only a mid-album ballad, the twice-as-long-as-it-should-have-been “Gone Astray,” really feels like it drags. Other than that, the second half of “Cimmeria” and the outro track really only suffer from the fact that the album is pushing the hour mark by that point. Both quality, but there isn’t enough variety in Lunar Shadow’s playbook to justify an album quite so long.
Still, this is only 10-15 minutes out of nearly an hour, and the rest is quite good, and often downright excellent. It never reaches the must-have status that their aforementioned countrymen did on their debut, but that’s okay, few do at such an early stage. And while it may seem unfair to continually compare Lunar Shadow to a band the stature of the Kodex, it’s pretty hard to escape due to both the overall vibe of the music and other factors (same country, same label, etc.). Plus, this comparison should certainly be taken only as flattery, because minor hiccups and all, Lunar Shadow displays a pretty undeniable level of potential on this one.