Nostalgia is a part of life, as inescapable as death, taxes and back hair. In moderation it’s a wistful and harmless reminder of happy times and precious moments1. Taken to extremes however, it becomes ABBA-centric musicals and ironical Hipster Hell (i.e. Williamsburg, Brooklyn). The biggest problem with throwback/retro nostalgia-core is the fact it must forever look backward at what’s already been done, rarely managing to inject modern ideas or sensibilities into the mix. Flying in the face of this truism, Lunar Shadow boldly strides out of Germany with a new take on living in the past. On their Far From Light debut they’ve paid homage to not one, but two beloved and bygone musical eras, fusing them together to create the rare double secret nostalgia-core album. The first era is, unsurprisingly, early 80s NWoBHM like Saxon, Iron Maiden and Angel Witch. Into this tried-and-true style they’ve injected a healthy draught of mid-90s Scandinavian black metal like Immortal and Dissection. Yes, it’s still backward looking, but at least it’s looking at the past in interesting new ways. That almost counts as originality in these days of high recycling.

The band holds many of their cards back on mammoth opener “Hadrian Carrying Stones,” opting to attack with a strictly 80s-centric onslaught. After some tasteful melodic plucking rife with moodiness, you’re abruptly dumped into a classic Maiden-esque gallop with trilling dual guitars and more old school flavor than a hunk of Hubba Bubba stuck under a desk since 1974. The 80s live large throughout the song as the guitars slather your ears with harmony after harmony, and you’ll hear traces of nearly every NWoBHM titan as well as early Queensryche and Fates Warning as the 10-minute compositions weedles this way and that. All the while vocalist A. Vornam does his part to cement the sound deep in the past with his high-pitched nasal delivery, often reminding me of Zeeb Parkes of Witchfinder General. The song is way too long but the plethora of fist pumping licks and leads do a good job of keeping the listener hanging around.

The band tweaks this 80s metal style on “They That Walk the Night,” creating something like a collaboration between Enforcer and Cirith Ungol and it’s undeniably fun, upbeat and rocking. The blackened edges don’t make an appearance until “Frozen Goddess” which introduces battle-ready riffs purloined from the armories of Immortal and Amon Amarth. The juxtaposition of these harder riffs alongside NWoBHM noodling is chaotic but interesting and the band manages to blend it together fairly well. They even inject some interesting doom elements into the stew on “The Kraken,” achieving interesting textures, including a quasi-black n’ roll stomp that works well.

The problem with their eccentric style is the ease at which it goes off the rails. Though there are many interesting moments over the 8-minutes of “The Hour of Dying,” the inclusion of so many divergent styles results in an overfull and chaotic song where icy trem riffs sideswipe traditional metal harmonies and blastbeats and harsh vocals erupt unexpectedly like geysers of over-exuberant creative juices. While I applaud the concept, the execution goes south and things end up feeling awkward and slapdash. Another soft spot in the armor is the mega-sappy power ballad “Gone Astray,” which is like too much unmanageable hair metal on a hot summer day despite some high-quality guitar work throughout.

At 57 minutes, there isn’t much restraint to be found. Most songs run at least 6 minutes with several hitting up into the ever dangerous 8-9 minute climes. For a band intent to do so much with every second of their music, such lengths prove ill advised and even pretty righteous songs like “Hadrian Carrying Stones” feel overlong and drawn out. This is a shame, because the core of what the band is doing is really interesting and they have the chops to pull it off if their writing and editing work in tandem.

There are few albums as guitar-driven as Far From Light. Max Birbaum and K. Hamacher use the material as their private riff garden and go batshit crazy with the noodling. They’re very talented and go out of their way to prove it with the extensive collection of memorable riffs they throw at you like so many empty beer bottles. A. Vornam’s vocals are of the love or hate persuasion and when the band goes deeper into the blackened end of the pool, his high-pitched wails sound out of place and unmanly.  I grew up loving the kind of air raidy vocals he specializes in, but I can see others not being as kindly disposed.

Lunar Shadow is a band with a lot of talent and potential and Far From Light isn’t very far from being a great album. They need to tighten up their writing, streamline and unclutter things a bit, but the ingredients are all there ready to be turned into a monster metal moose cake with vintage icing. I’m definitely interested in what comes next for these new defenders of the olde.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Cruz del Sur Music
Releases Worldwide: March 10th, 2017

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  1. Of which Doc Grier has an extensive collection in his office
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  • El_Cuervo

    This is the most interesting old-school metal I’ve heard in ages. It’s definitely less concise than it could be but it’s really quite unique. I’d’ve given it more!

    • Meh, get off my lawn.

      • El_Cuervo

        Retro band does something entirely derivative of an established band > 4/5

        Retro band does something quite unique by mixing retro sounds > 3/5

        Classic SD.

        • Retro band tries something new and botches the execution and writes 8-10 minute songs that should be 5-6 minute songs = 3.0

          • El_Cuervo

            Yah boo sucks Mr Steel

          • Was between a 3.0 and 3.5 and if you read the Prime Directive, you know what we do with albums on the fence.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            Schooled by Steely 3.5 D on 3.0 review.
            You can’t fight this, its a tide of steel…

          • metalcasket

            I’m getting early Blind Guardian vibes from how disjointed some of this sounds and I have to say I absolutely do not fucking care. This is Bobby Roode levels of GLORIOUS and wouldn’t mind if the songs went another 5 minutes longer. >_>

            Sry bro

    • Levly

      Same here :). Best thing in the genre I heard since the oh so mighty Atlantean Kodex.

    • Wilhelm

      Atlantean Kodex, Sumerlands are at least on the same level

  • Ferrous Beuller

    This deserves better than a 3, you miser!

    • You’re all overrating fanboy bastards.

      • Ferrous Beuller

        You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

  • Dr. Wvrm

    Wait so this isn’t a new Summoning album? Cause that cover screams Middle-Earth.

    • contenderizer

      closes with a song called “earendil”, so…

  • R.Daneel Olivaw

    where have you detect the Immortal and Dissection elements i really cannot understant.this is a classic metal band with “girly” vocals.they would made a huge success back in the 80’s but i cant see now a future for them.

    • They don’t appear in the embedded track but do elsewhere.

    • Soze

      Bloody hell, is this what the metal scene has sunk to? Any vocalist who actually attempts to sing rather than bark, growl or vomit over the microphone is “girly” :D God help us!

      • R.Daneel Olivaw

        like it or not…these are girly vocals.Plus there is not god..;)

        • basenjibrian

          There may be no Gawd…but Our Darl Lord Who Rules Over Metal loves androgyny…and he is displeased!

        • sir_c

          Geddy Lee just called. He wants a word with you.

    • Reese Burns

      No girly vocals here. This guy can just sing in tune.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        I love stratospheric vocals when done right; recent examples to my liking being Spellcaster’s latest and the high notes on the first track off Flidais’ Kazador.

        • contenderizer

          “recent examples to my liking being Spellcaster’s latest”

          great album, criminally slept on

  • Phil Daly

    Strong Vim Fuego vibe to what I assume is the vocalist front and centre in that band picture.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I like this one it’s edging above a 3.5 for me.. Nice one Lunar shadow peeps.
    Though you should remember… Always shirt under jacket.. You don’t wanna catch a cold.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Suggested edit: “… a hunk of GRAPE Hubba Bubba”.

  • Wilhelm

    The only problem with this is that the logo is of the indecipherable BM variety, I think most will immediately write this off not realizing this is classic metal. The music rules in heaps, drums could be mixed better but that’s about the only criticism I have.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      If all you can complain about is the logo… then I guess they’re doing it right.

  • Serjien

    First thing that came to mind when I saw the band photo was “is that a David Lee Roth clone in the middle?!?”
    I will give these guys a try for sure.

    • basenjibrian

      Warrel Dane!

  • Alexandre Barata

    Heard this the other day, was positivelly impressed!

  • Grymm

    I’m getting a strong whiff of classic In Flames in the riffs. I can’t complain, except it does feels a bit long in the tooth.

    I likey, though.

  • Eli Valcik

    That band photo is wack

    • Thatguy

      The band photo is WTF!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I can tell the guy in the middle wants to be in The Darkness.

      • Eli Valcik

        He defiantly does not want to be in the darkness.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Out of the darkness and in The Darkness.

  • Lars Barres

    I kinda like the embedded track, so I checked out more on their bandcamp page. Man, those guitar solos. Ugh. Sounds like guys learning licks on Youtube and then throwing them in haphazardly just because. I can only imagine how tedious their practices must be while the guitarists incessantly widdle away as someone is trying to talk.

    • Thatguy

      It’s what guitarists do…

      • Lars Barres

        Not the good ones. :)

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    You mean SILVER back hair, right Steely D?

  • contenderizer

    This is great, though retro as as it gets. I even like the ballad (like, a lot). Nice, spacious recording/mastering, too. Presence of black metal elements is a bit overstated in the review, imo. A little dusting for flavor, but rarely a major compositional or aesthetic element. Agree that some songwriting concision would improve things dramatically, and “The Hour of Dying” is a glaring misstep. Still, the good far outweighs the bad. 3.5 at least.

    • Dudeguy Jones

      I find myself quite enthralled with a metal power ballad, oh… some 30 years after I fell in love with I Remember You. And Im not embarrassed at all.

      I love love love The Hour of Dying though. From there to the end is amazing.

  • Aesir

    Is that Robert Sweet front and center? :P

  • It sounds way too thin and has too much of that bad-studio-acoustics vibe going on. I don’t like it when bands try to sound retro by intentionally making their own music sound bad. Ironically, if this really was from the 80’s, it would most likely have sounded a bit better. Shameful!

    I’m still keeping a bookmark so I can listen again later, but I really wish they hadn’t butchered it. The only thing that sounds right is the lead guitar.

  • Zadion

    This seems super super promising but I feel iffy about the embedded track… I love everything about it except the “retro” production and those vocals. But those issues are really killing it for me.

  • Bas

    I’m a bit late but I really like this ! True the songs are a bit too long but still the feeling. Though olde, it sounds fresh. I like how the singer sounds, a bit like Arjen Lucassen. I like this more than Sumerlands. Good, almost very good.

  • DaveSt

    “more old school flavor than a hunk of Hubba Bubba stuck under a desk since 1974” … this is why I keep coming back to AMG, particularly when I see a new SD review is up.

  • mindbleach

    Is it me or did they borrow Left Hand Path’s album art?

  • Dr. Wvrm

    This album is a textbook example of why you can’t discount 3.0s on this site. I agree with the score, the secondary flaws would have led me to the same conclusion, but this is still damn good guitarwork.