Lunatic Soul – Through Shaded Woods
The recreation and re-imagination of ancient music, especially that of the European North, has seen a constant increase in popularity in the latest years, with bands like Wardruna and Heilung opening the genre to wider audiences. Naming those two as some of the main inspirations for the new (and already seventh) album of Mariusz Duda’s solo project Lunatic Soul in the press releases certainly helps to get attention – but will we see the frontman of Polish prog veterans Riverside calling on Odin furiously dancing to war drums? Luckily, not. As much as I adore Heilung and believe that everything Wardruna’s Einar Selvik touches instantly turns to gold, I couldn’t imagine that.
But the inspiration is certainly there: “Through Shaded Woods” has that earthy feeling, breathes the same spirit as the Scandinavian dark folk music while being Mariusz Duda through and through, with beautiful guitar melodies and his soothing voice. Nothing feels copied, but it rather comes naturally, and as Duda says, out of the connection with his homeland, the region rich of lakes and forests called Masuria in Northeastern Poland – an area where Scandinavian/Baltic and Germanic traditions met Slavic history and nature. It is, like with much of the music mentioned above, a search for our own origins.
Lunatic Soul – Navvie (click here if the video does not play)
What we get is a very organic sounding album, indeed danceable at times (and with all instruments played by Duda himself for the first time). Mostly (acoustic) guitar-based, and in that very different to the two previous Lunatic Soul albums, the music on “Through Shaded Woods” reaches from mesmerising melodies such as the (mostly) instrumental opener ‘Navvie’ or the trance-like percussion at the beginning of ‘Oblivion’ to the dark and heavy climax of ‘The Passage’, which easily could have found its place on a Riverside album.
Lunatic Soul – The Passage (click here if the video does not play)
Changing between busy parts with lots of layers, little accents through single chants or carefully used percussion and simple, folky melodies, Duda creates different atmospheres all the time, sometimes within the few minutes of the same song. The title song, for example, drags us deep into the dark forest, sinister voice effects contrast with the happy melody and gives us a feeling somewhere between love and fear for the shaded woods.
Lyrically, “Through Shaded Woods” deals with “our worst traumas and nightmares” that, in the words of Mariusz Duda, hide inside them. “Going through these woods symbolises facing them. It’s a test of courage.”
As the album progresses, we seem to pass this test, as the music gets a more positive tone, very notably with the upbeat acoustic guitar and piano in the first part ‘Summoning Dance’. It is another song which passes different stages, with a trance-like (and electronic sounding, even though the press release stresses that there are no electronics involved this time around) part, sometimes combined with distorted guitars and then again with clean ones or rushed vocals. As mentioned above, it all feels very organic and seems to flow naturally.
The transition towards the light is complete in the final song, ‘The Fountain’: “Silence breaks apart, brightness comes to life. Stream of sounds, wash away the darkness from my soul.” It is a beautiful little piano-driven ballad far away from the rather primal beginnings.
Lunatic Soul – The Fountain (click here if the video does not play)
The Limited edition comes with three enjoyable bonus tracks, which elaborate further on some of the album’s elements and themes – with ‘Vyraj’ and ‘Hylophobia’ being rather short and to the point upbeat tunes and ‘Transition 2’ being a 27-minute flow of melodies and ideas.
“Through Shaded Woods” certainly is the most different Lunatic Soul album so far, and it might well be the best. We get to know a new side of Mariusz Duda’s music, it indeed feels as if we’re allowed to explore his origins, guided by himself. On this tour, we get glimpses through windows and see elements of the music we know from him – it’s a fascinating journey.
- Navvie 04:03
- The Passage 08:57
- Through Shaded Woods 05:51
- Oblivion 05:03
- Summoning Dance 09:52
- The Fountain 06:04
- Vyraj 05:32 (Bonus)
- Hylophobia 03:20 (Bonus)
- Transition II 27:45 (Bonus)