Album Review: Lunar Chamber - Shambhallic Vibrations
Reviewed by Sam Jones
Lunar Chamber. A band so new I don’t know when they formed, where they’re from and how long this has been in the works for. What we can say about this release however is, it’s the very first release ever put out by Lunar Chamber and through 20 Buck Spin; that straight away caught me off guard. Evidently, Lunar Chamber are a band with enough quality that such an esteemed record label can pick them up immediately out of the gate. What ultimately drew me to them however, was their utilisation of Buddhist and enlightenment themes that would be heavily prevalent throughout Shambhallic Vibrations. That’s different. I like that. I couldn’t wait to get on with this bizarre release.
It didn’t take long for me to catch onto why there’s been so much hype surrounding Lunar Chamber’s onset, and through 20 Buck Spin no less. While the band open up their debut work with a short instrumental piece, it’s a very effective ear worm as Lunar Chamber demonstrate a capacity to crawl into your head and then stay there with ease. A dreamlike opening not completely unfamiliar, as heard likewise from a band like Dream Unending, it moves and swirls like a spiral taking us round and round again, before completely punching us square in the jaw with a blast beat and surprisingly guitar tones that emit an ethereal sensibility, all the while the bass, clearly fretless, hums and bounces through the band’s performance with a gentle alacrity. From the opening track alone, the band have effectively made their formal introduction to a potential fanbase and showcase what we may be in for the long run.
With that said however, the band’s general impact is immense as they proceed to perform with all the power and impact 20 Buck Spin bands have become renowned for. If their opening track was a demonstration, the rest of this album sees the deluge erupt from a now much bigger vent. It’s reassuring to note however, against the slew of extreme metal we have nowadays, Lunar Chamber absolutely have an identity of their own and it’s the kind that not many bands can hold a comparison with. The band’s general essence is one of death metal but there’s an utter slew of elements and aesthetics being poured into their performance that gives this record a distinctive edge. The guitar work is utterly sublime, not simply in songwriting as we’re taken through a kaleidoscope of twists and turns but, through the sheer talent on display. The band make the evident point that their members can play but it isn’t just superficial boasting either. The soloing on this album is simply outstanding and the guitar tone, whilst devastating in conjunction with the main riffs, also acquires this lofty, piercing flair that, when played at the pace demonstrated herein, results in guitar work aesthetically in line with the band’s spiritual edge. It’s fast, snaps from one place to another and has a peculiarly technical aspect that you can’t ignore.
One reason why I think this album is going to turn heads is how the bass has been tuned in the mix. This is a bass performance that should be observed closely and for the greatest of reasons; Lunar Chamber’s chemistry clearly holds no one vocal or instrumental force as a favourite and so, we have a band that holds all pieces going into their songwriting in equal regard. Lunar Chamber have a bass that roars and snarls beneath every instance of the main riffs, equally audible and present and strong enough to grab our attention towards its own merits. Honestly, half this album’s experience is about appreciating the bass that’s propping up the soloing or the technically proficient riffs; it has that bouncing, pleasing tone but is much deeper than your typical fretless bass would sport from bands like Cynic or Beyond Creation. As a result, the bass doesn’t need to try hard to be noticed because you can’t help but do so, as it amplifies the potential impact the riffs would have as they bleed into the baritone depths the bass provides.
The most important thing I believe that goes into making this record stand out is the ambient element. Much like what Dream Unending have done with their own work, Lunar Chamber mirror this aesthetic with ambience that feels spiritual, zen-like but still possesses a capacity for aggression as much of the band’s instrumentation tends to overlap with the ambient pieces playing at the same time. Yet, in spite of this synergy occurring, much of its power can be derived when very little of the band’s own performance is actually happening. There are plenty of moments here where a lot of the band’s instrumentation and deep vocals completely drop away, and we may have a sole element being played all the while that ambience is still going on in the background. However, it isn’t flowery for its own sake as attentive listening will come to the conclusion that the ambient section does indeed possess direction and purpose. It’s a carefully planned and sequenced part of the Lunar Chamber experience here.
In conclusion, Lunar Chamber’s debut release of any kind the band yet have is as sweeping and total an introduction their sound could have, as the band could have possibly hoped for. I am absolutely on board now with anything Lunar Chamber shall one day release; their careful tightrope blend of ethereal aesthetics with punishing death metal is something that could have gone haywire had they leaned more so one way or the other. This opening work details their understanding of what they’re trying to do wonderfully; in many ways this is what a modern Cynic could have been had they not relaxed their intensity following Focus’ release. We also can’t lump Lunar Chamber straight into the same camp as Dream Unending either as this record is certainly based more in death metal than the spectral, dreamlike essence the latter puts forth. It’s such a unique work of extreme metal that I could enjoy it equally through the typical death metal lens and the ambience that flowed from start to finish. I would certainly implore many, who’re seeking more avant-grade examples of extreme metal, to check Shambhallic Vibrations out as there’s something here totally unique amongst the slew of modern releases. Amazing guitar work, deeply engaging vocals and basslines and an atmosphere derived from zen and Buddhist aesthetics, Lunar Chamber are an infant force in death metal worth watching out for.