I guess Riverside's Mariusz Duda's side project doesn't need any introduction, I guess Lunatic Soul's high quality albums have found their way, not only to Riverside aficionados, but to many more musical friends, even far beyond the progressive rock scene. One of the very strong points of Lunatic Soul has always been the variation of music, probably referring to the musical preferences of Mariusz Duda at the time of writing/recording.
With his latest effort, not creatively narrowed by the world surrounding him at the moment, Mariusz found his inspiration in dark Scandinavian and Slavic folk music. For the die-hard progressive rock fans, who are about to quit reading, please don't, for this is Mariusz best Lunatic Soul album so far and a real masterpiece. For me it's the minimalistic approach of the compositions, but even with less instruments the outcome is not less than amazing. Each of the compositions has that typical Duda groove; fine percussive parts and very melodic bass parts form the base of each song. If you are familiar with Duda's music, you know what I mean. Check out the opener Navvie, where a folky percussive part joins Mariusz rhythmical escapades on guitar and bass. His designated vocals preserve the folky atmosphere that roams throughout the album. This wonderful and catchy tune is followed by my personal favorite of the album; The Passage. An almost nine minutes lasting composition, that is both intense as well as challenging. In the beginning Mariusz vocals and guitar impress, but as we continue in the song, a Porcupine Tree reminding heavier part kicks in, perfectly balancing the song between folk and heavy progressive rock. With the continuing title track, Through Shaded Woods the folky elements are emphasized, alongside the signature bass and drums, the distorted vocal gives the track something extra, but it is the overall atmosphere that makes this song such a beautiful one. The seeming simplicity of Oblivion is just impressive; a fine groove, acoustic guitars and Mariusz vocals is all that it takes to create something as fine as this. Along with The Passage and The Fountain, Summoning Dance is the song that stands out for me. Sure, I am a sucker for Mariusz smooth voice. But again, it is atmosphere that makes this such a nice one. The perfect symbiosis between the acoustic folkiness and the tremendous flow Mariusz puts in each composition. You have to love this. Perhaps the best song of the album also is perhaps the least progressive one; The Fountain combines fine orchestration with delicate piano supporting the already well-known emotional vocals of Duda. The result is more than impressive.
With this “new” path, Lunatic Soul will surely find a broader audience, although I don't know if that was the plan in the first place. Through Shaded Woods turns out to be an emotional combination of newly explored space in music, welded together with Mariusz Duda's own musical style into something new for me. I hope Mariusz keeps on going on with his experimentations, and I am very curious for future endeavors. But for now, I am very pleased with Through Shaded Woods, for this is brilliant.
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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