|Review: Lunar - The Illusionist|
Label: Saibot Reigns
Year released: 2023
Genre: Progressive Metal
Review online: March 13, 2023
Reviewed by: MetalMike
Rated 3.64/5 (72.73%) (11 Votes)
The Illusionist is the third album from California's Lunar, a band that plays progressive and intricate yet accessible metal. This is my first exposure to the band, so I can't speak for previous albums, but there is a lot happening on The Illusionist. The story of a magician/illusionist questioning his life's work is relatively straightforward, but Lunar use various songwriting styles, outside influences and instruments to back that story up with a lot of emotion and mystery. Songs like "Showtime," with its speedy, power metal affectations, and "Worship the Sun" should be familiar to progressive metal fans as they follow many of the paths laid down by the genre's pioneers. One of my favorite songs is in the same vein, but the ultra-catchy chorus on "Turn Off the World" makes it my standout. The band, however, has more tricks up their collective sleeves. There are several jazz-influenced sections, like the smoky piano in the middle section of "The Illusionist" or the saxophone solo in that same song. Lunar explore Japanese instrumentation and melodies on "For My Next Trick," then head to the Indian subcontinent for some sitar and tabla on "Worship the Sun" followed by flutes and other Asian melodies on "Disassembled." Underlying all of this diversity is a strong sense of songwriting and, while at first The Illusionist didn't click for me, a few extra spins allowed me to put the pieces together and start to enjoy the album as an introspective, but not overly dark, journey with a multitude of emotional ups and downs. I'm not the biggest progressive metal fan as I find it is often more about the esoteric and challenging nature of the playing than the songs, but I feel like Lunar has captured the balance between accessibility and technicality very well. I hear many of the same elements in their sound that, when employed well, make bands like Dream Theater, King Crimson, Voïvod and even Sigh so engaging. I love when an album comes out of nowhere (for me, anyway) and makes this much of an impression.
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