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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: February 3rd 2021
Reviewer: Maciej Slowik
Related Link: Band @ Bandcamp
Hits: 2242
Language: english

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Lunatic Soul: Through Shaded Woods
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2021-02-03 15:03:35
My Score:

A side project that is now some 13 years and seven albums old, to see Lunatic Soul as anything other than a full on, full focus endeavour from Riverside mainman Mariusz Duda would be to underplay the significance of this entity quite spectacularly. That said, with previous albums from this now one man outlet being more synth and electronically focused, the line of vision for Through Shaded Woods alters quite significantly, even if it maintains the deep, dark melancholy that this act has always been known for. To me it also results in the crowning glory of Lunatic Soul and, arguably, the first time they have begun to truly rival Riverside as the most important aspect of Duda’s creativity.

Stunning, beautiful, organic, desolate, traditional and yet far reaching, the short but so densely, twistedly sweet offerings here become the perfect blending of restrained progressive expression and hugely evocative Scandinavian/Slavic folk music. The change in outlook from the previous few albums from this act couldn’t be more stark, this brave and bold step into a world where Duda asks us to trust him as we face his and our own darkest fears, deeply touching. As many of my favourite albums are, Through Shaded Woods is a lone experience, best taken in through headphones and with the eyes closed. This is otherworldly music that almost feels tangible as it caresses the senses and raises hairs in a way that most music simply can’t. However, this album also grooves; rhythm and repetition utilised in a way that makes some of the lengthy instrumental sections find a wordless voice that tells the stories just as convincingly as the tracks where the rich tones of Duda hold us close and reassure us that everything, or maybe nothing, will be okay.

It’s no exaggeration to suggest that this album is a journey that’s been crafted from start to finish, the pacing of the beats sometimes acting as the album’s inner heart beat, with everything from unsettling vocal reverberations to hums and contained howls employed to convey the emotion at its heart. Although never be fooled into thinking that this is ever anything other than an intense journey that has been delivered in a hugely memorable and melody rich manner.

So key is this album’s journey that even at a running time of just under 40 minutes, the three bonus cuts included on the highly recommended, expanded special edition are corralled onto their own separate disc. The atmosphere on these three pieces - running to just three minutes shorter than the main album - is similar and yet the tone alters slightly, with a rougher edged sense brought into being and while they prove almost as captivating as the main album itself, both discs work much better in isolation of each other.

In short, Through Shaded Woods is an immense accomplishment from a musician who has already provided more than his fair share of those moments. Given time, this album may be seen as one of his very best.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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