Without Waves - LunarChicago has a busy music scene, and I can hardly be bothered to go to shows even when bands I already like are playing, so there are plenty of cool second city bands that I’ve always heard of but never checked out. One such familiar name is Without Waves, an experimental/prog metal/rock outfit set to release their third album, Lunar, into a crowded field of new music this March 17th. Having to duke it out for attention with Dodecahedron and Fit for an Autopsy is no small order, but if there’s any little prog outfit ready to grab my attention, it’s this band and their mix of Pink Floydian aesthetics and idiosyncratic writing.

Despite the late-’80s cover art, Lunar is very much a modern progressive metal record and therefore opts to kick off “Sewing Together the Limbs” with a straight-up Meshuggah riff. Launching directly into a prog-metal freakout establishes the album’s cred right upfront — a smart move, as the song’s weak alt-rock chorus does its best to undermine that after about three minutes. The chorus is pretty annoying, to be sure, but surrounded by much darker riffing it’s a weird cut-and-paste job to hear. Lunar is full of such oddities, and the success of the experimentation varies hugely. The nine-minute “Us Against” starts out in Porcupine Tree mode and ends up in a bucolic plod reminiscent of modern day Pink Floyd, but moves through some great material getting there. Its three-part structure certainly keeps things interesting, but I can’t shake the feeling that ending on a less Gilmour-ey note would have served it much better.

After the Mastodon/Gorguts mashup of “Victorian Punishment,” the second half of Lunar offers much more consistent songs. “EDMS” melds an alt-rock vocal line with mathcore riffing and actually works pretty well, feeling dry and ugly throughout. But Without Waves really hit the jackpot with the incredible duo of “Lost Art” and “Fractals,” two great songs that seem to tie together all of the previously shattered angst of the album. “Lost Art” develops slowly out of twinkling guitars into a powerful chorus that leads smoothly into the song’s conclusion. But “Fractals” has it easily beaten in the chorus department, and has been stuck in my head for days.

Lunar is well-balanced across the board from a mixing standpoint, but I’m not quite on board with its overall sound. It’s a bit on the dry side, and while that tone works fairly well for the band’s heavier moments, the other half of the album is subdued and lyrical and could do with a little more low end for a lush feel. It’s quite an easy album to replay, and at fifty minutes, it’s a good length for a progressive rock LP and Lunar feels cinematic but at times a little forced. There are moments in nearly every song that feel a bit tired, whether it’s the radio-grunge choruses or just a slightly tacky transition here and there.

Lunar is an album with as many stumbles as successes, and while it can be a tough climb up to its peaks, the view is great there for a little while. I really liked this album for a while, but giving it repeated closer listens revealed enough roughness around the edges to dull my enthusiasm. Perhaps this is just too much of a rock album for my thoroughly brutalized ears. No matter the reason, “Fractals” and “Lost Art” together make for a compelling reason to listen to Lunar and dig into Without Waves‘ back catalog. If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t feel the need to down-tune every guitar they see and run around stealing snare wires, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this album. And if you don’t, there’s plenty else to choose from this March.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: withoutwaves.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/withoutwaves
Releases Worldwide: March 17th, 2017

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  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Pink Floyd
    Porcupine Tree

    Prosthetic Records really take their name seriously when signing bands huh

  • Never heard of them either, until recently. I plan on going to their CD release show at Cobra Lounge (this Saturday, I think?). It’s getting to be a full time job keeping up with bands.

  • Reese Burns

    What a terrible, awful album cover. Yikes. Also, didn’t know Fit for an Autopsy had a record coming out. Thanks for the heads up!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      That cover achieves a rare feat: it’s overly pretentious yet still sucks. Not sure if that’s an achievement, though.

  • I wasn’t sure till the 90s alt rock vocals but I think this is a high school band and is actually called 3 doors down

  • Felchmeister777

    Any chance of you guys reviewing something that isn’t fucking ‘post-metal’ or whatever.

    Everything these days is either post-Metal, ‘sludge’/fuzzy stoner bollocks, or primitive black metal that sounded generic by the mid-nineties.

    Metal had never been in such a godawful state…

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Cheer up Felchmeister and look for the reviews for The Ominous Circle and Curse Of Denial from a few days ago.

      • Felchmeister777

        Had a quick scan through both. They sound perfectly decent, but again, they don’t seem to be doing anything I hadn’t started to get bored of 15-20 years ago. Really overfamiliar riffs/structures etc.

        Thank you anyway though, it’s good of you to throw a few suggestions out there. Cheers…

    • Reese Burns

      Great Old Ones got a review a fair bit back. Hardly recent, but if you haven’t heard it, it’s pretty great.

    • sir_c

      Dodecahedron, Venenum, Wormwood, Amorphis to name just a couple of things?
      Or else go listen to the promo of the upcoming Night Flight Orchestra, if that doesn’t cheer you up, I do not know what will :-)

  • contenderizer

    i feel so bad for this band’s friends.

  • lagerbottoms

    This March really is a great month with the already mentioned Dodecahedron and Fit For An Autopsy, plus Venenum and Replacire

  • GWW

    Robert Fripp wants his cover art back! Isn’t this 30 Seconds to whatever!?

  • As noted in the review, the embedded track is good and then the chorus just kills it dead. Not enough facepalms for that one guys.

  • naoto

    I really cannot grasp the reason why american metal is so obsessed with growls and progressive music as spaghetti-riffing.
    An unbelievable tendency to put together different moods, riffs, grooves from distant sources without any proper care. This is not progressive, this is a ugly pastiche meant to gather different audiences. Let’s wrap it up ad just sell it. And see what is going to happen.

  • sir_c

    This music follows the (Malmsteenism) maxim of Moar! Is! Moar!
    To which I happen to disagree.

  • Richard Bendall

    A lot of hate for the chorus in the first song here. I actually really like it and it reminds me quite a lot of Strapping Young Lad.