Through Shaded Woods
Released 13 Nov 2020
7.25
Clean vocals

Lunatic Soul – Through Shaded Woods: If only the woods had a bit more shade.

For those who haven't heard of Lunatic Soul, let me explain. Lunatic Soul is the side project of Riverside frontman Mariusz Duda. If you haven't heard of Riverside, I guess you must be new. Welcome! Lunatic Soul released its seventh studio album with Through Shaded Woods. Mariusz is known to explore a broad range of genres with Lunatic Soul that wouldn't be fitting for Riverside. I'm very curious what he brings to the table this time.

I've read amazing things about this album, so I'm not going into this without expectations. I pour myself a glass of wine and have my headphones ready to go.

Opening the album with a folky rythmic guitar is ‘Navvie’. Mariusz' vocals are, as always, amazing. This is very accessible stuff, I'm tapping my right foot to the rythm. The atmosphere is quite upbeat. Yes, there's probably some melancholy to be found there, but believe me, I'm smiling more than I'm crying.

The first notes of ‘The Passage’ slightly change that atmosphere, it's a notch darker right from the start. As soon as his vocals come in, it becomes a bit brighter. There's lots of repetition with the guitar work on this track, but that's one of the signatures of folk music, isn't it? If I didn't mention folk music up until this point, I'm doing you a disservice. It is immensely influenced by folklore music. If you don't like any of that, this might not even be for you. Or it could be your opener to more folky music? It's very easy to listen to, I must say. And it's very infectious. Right after the first half of the song I thought it was getting a bit dragged out. Just then a heavier riff comes in. The riff gets layered with more tribal sounds and melodies. Quite nice, but not really all that exciting for now.

Title track ‘Through Shaded Woods’ starts with that same impetus. Beautiful folk guitar in harmony with a tribal drum and chanting vocals. In the verses his voice comes in with this echoing filter, almost as in your face as an autotune effect. Yes, it's obvious Mariusz is going for a more modern take on folklore music. I get it. But do I like it? I'll need to give this some more time. In the background there's this beat that leans towards electronica. Melody-wise I think it is a very interesting piece. I just don't like the super clean production of it all. It's just not fitting for an album titled Through Shaded Woods. Maybe I'm too conservative when it comes to this folkore thing.

Oblivion’ starts with an upbeat guitar riff again. Deep voices whisper to me. Beautiful. More repetition on this track, but I don't mind, this has such a beautiful melody. Mariusz shows once again why he is such an amazing vocalist. He has cemented his legacy in prog and the songwriting here is testament of that. Much like Steven Wilson he shows he's not only a phenomenal vocalist, he's also an outstanding songwriter.

Summoning Dance’ takes a more intimate turn. The fingerpicking guitar complements Mariusz' higher pitched voice perfectly. Once the drums come in, his tone lowers. And then goes higher again to deliver this wonderful melody. A piano comes in. This is the most dynamic track from this album so far, it's the one that touches me most. The production is still insanely clean, but on this track I see this as a positive. Now I can clearly hear all the delicate details which are so important to this piece. The second part of the track is mostly an entrancing beat with some interesting instrumental experimentation and vocal parts going on. Honestly, I could do without this latter part. It's not nearly as dark enough for what I'm looking for in a musical style like this.

Last track ‘The Fountain‘ is an emotive and intimate song that finally leaves the heavier folk influences behind. To me this fits better with the overall tone of the album.

While I applaud Mariusz for trying new things and experimenting across genres, I don't think this is his best. If I wanted to hear delicate folk guitar music, I would rather listen to Bert Jansch. Granted, there's more on this record than some folky guitar licks, but I find the overall tone not nearly as dark or intriguing as I would want. I'm just not sure if this folk thing mixes well with the cleaner production and almost poppy upbeat sections. Because of that it didn't touch me as much as I would've wanted. To each their own. For anyone interested in more folklore colored music, I would warmly recommend Lankum's latest release The Livelong Day (2019).