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Lunatic Soul: Through Shaded Woods

This was my most anticipated album of 2020. Mariusz Duda's music is constantly evolving, showing the boundless creativity of Riverside's frontman. His back catalogue is immense, and yet one would struggle to find two albums sounding exactly the same - and that's counting all three of his main projects! Even Through Shaded Woods, heralded as a comeback to the black & white duology of Lunatic Soul is far from a rehash of ideas presented on these works.

Duda has made 2020 a year of spoiling his fans. After the two "subcutaneous" songs ("The Song of a Dying Memory" and "Are You Ready for the Sun") and a claustrophobic, electronic solo album Lockdown Spaces, the Polish musical chameleon comes back with yet another release - the seventh album of Lunatic Soul. As the title would suggest, the main color of Through Shaded Woods is dark green.

And it's an incredible journey from start to finish. "Navvie" instantly grabs the listener, letting them get entranced by tribal rhythms. "The Passage" brings the shade to the woods - the guitars sound more sinister, and Mariusz's melancholic singing perfectly complements the darker tones. The simple melody of the chorus is absolutely brilliant. When I heard it for the first time as a lead single, I was stunned. That's not the end of surprises though - the second half of "The Passage" assaults the unsuspecting listener with riffs heavier than most of Riverside's discography! The only track I have some issues with is the title track - the distorted vocals don't work well with the "organic" instrumental. After this little stumble comes the unquestionable king of Through Shaded Woods. From the title to the "Dragon Shouts" at the beginning, "Oblivion" sounds like a nod to The Elder Scrolls video game series, and it's absolutely incredible. The shamanic drums, main acoustic guitar surrounded by abundance of other sounds... Everything flows together so perfectly! I've also never heard Mariusz sing like that - he just screams his soul out on this track. It's definitely one of the best songs Duda has ever written. "Summoning Dance" brings a moment of reprieve, enveloping the listener with soothing guitar and vocal work... at least in the first half. The second is a polar opposite - from overdriven bass to disco drum beat, this song sounds like something you could hear on a rave in the middle of a forest! And it works great, especially in the final instrumental section. The album closes with "The Fountain" - a piano-driven ballad that will manage to squeeze a few tears out of everyone. For an album like Through Shaded Woods there could be no better ending than a song full of melancholy, confidence and hope. What a beautiful ending to this journey.

The deluxe edition of Through Shaded Woods comes with a second CD, with over 35 minutes of music spread among three tracks. The groove of "Vyraj" is unmatched - I don't think anyone could resist dancing after hearing that meaty, funky main riff. The short but sweet "Hylophobia" hits hard with the overdriven bass riffs. Both of these could have appeared on the main album and would not feel out of place at all. The final track is the longest Mariusz has ever written - a journey through Lunatic Soul's back catalogue in form of "Transition II". The people already familiar with the previous LS albums, this almost 28-minute long piece will easily notice movements inspired by "Walking on a Flashlight Beam", "Fractured", the black & white duology, "Impressions", "Under the Fragmented Sky", and even bits and pieces of Mariusz's solo album Lockdown Spaces. For newcomers to Duda's musical world, "Transition II" will be a solid introduction, giving one a taste of every style that the Polish prog master has dipped his toe in.

To sum it all up, Trough Shaded Woods shines both musically and lyrically. It's a ray of hope that we all need in these trying times. I simply can't recommend this record enough. My album of the year without question.

Mariusz Duda-vocals, all instruments

Track listing:
1. Navvie
2. The Passage
3. Through Shaded Woods
4. Oblivion
5. Summoning Dance
6. The Fountain

Deluxe Edition bonus disc:
1. Vyraj
2. Hylophobia
3. Transition II

Added: December 2nd 2020
Reviewer: Maciej Slowik
Related Link: Band @ Bandcamp
Hits: 404
Language: english

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