Released last year, 'Divinity', the debut full-length offering from UK extreme prog-metallers Luna's Call, only turned up for review in 2016, so this has already been out there a fair while. And it's something of an undiscovered gem... until now... and I'm more than pleased to have 'discovered' this record; one that's loaded with innovative flair, inventive songwriting, technically proficient performances and musical diversity. Composition-wise and, generally, through the execution of the songwriting, there are some moments of discernible Opeth worship that creep in during certain passages (the vocal phrasing alone, both with guitarist/vocalist Neil Purdy's clean voice and growls, is Akerfeldt through and through), although it's just on the right side of the pastiche/plagiarism line, so stands out more as stylistic mimicry than sonic theft. Likewise, there's also some noticeable Ihsahn-esque idioms in proceedings. There are other instantly identifiable influences too... I won't dwell on those, but I will say that Luna's Call have succeeded in blending their inspirations in such a way that it feels like they're actually progressing something here, thus 'Divinity' falls within the genuine, rather than generic, prog camp.
That said, songs do, on occasion, fall into a bit of a progressive technical trough, when it feels like the band are trying just that little bit too hard to make their sounds innovative. Innovation, at times, therefore, is sacrificed when they succumb to tried-and-tested prog tropes. However, before they head too far into prog-try-hard territory, they pull right out of that lull and surprise with some unexpected twists and turns. Some lengthy song durations allow them the space to do so, and to progress key motifs in all kinds of interesting and engaging ways, from a flute solo over a down-tempo acoustic guitar-led instrumentation in 'Day of Reverence' to sporadic bursts of blast-beat blackened metal... and everything in-between.
Purdy's fretboard vocabulary is rather phenomenal throughout, with masterful displays of technical ability, although there's also a nice natural flow to his musicianship. This boy has mastered his instrument in all manner of exhilarating ways, from riffs to leads and finger-picked acoustic sections. It's undoubtedly what helps progress the execution of his songwriting in such interesting directions and injects the music with a great deal of depth. Similarly the pairing of sticksman Jamie Batt and bassist Brad Laver is a potent rhythmic force, with the former's performance quite stunning in each and every song. This man has that rare ability to retain a refined sense of finesse through his playing, be it bashing the fuck out of his kit or providing a more restrained accompaniment, and indubitably adding to the overall feel of the music. Just check out the title track for a demonstration of the range of his drumming talents.
The production is generally good... very good, in fact, but seems to lack an extra layer of sheen that might've, otherwise, given songs that extra punch in all the right places. That said, it's a very organic sounding album so, in one, sense, too much polish would strip the music and album of some of its character. And it actually makes the more technical aspects of the musicianship, along with some of the more stilted and irregular time signatures, sound natural and fluent in their execution. So, yes, certainly not a pristine production, but this works in Luna's Call's favour. The mix is generally very good too, with keyboards nicely integrated into proceedings to accompany the guitar, bass, drums and voice. Instruments in the heavier, more up-tempo passages of music do, occasionally, lose a little clarity, but I kind of like the retro extreme metal charms that's engendered by the degree of muddiness in such moments.
I was going to say that, for a debut album, this really is rather impressive. But, this is impressive stuff, regardless. And, with a little refinement in the songwriting here and there, plus eschewing some of the more obvious prog paradigms, then Luna's Call's next offering could very well be a masterpiece. The signs are there already. Strong melodies, innovation, a degree of epicness, eruptions of metal extremity and some masterful musicianship - there's much to recommend about 'Divinity'.
Review by Mark Holmes
1) In the Cold Eyes of Wrath Pt. 1
3) Day of Reverence
4) Screaming Silence
5) Haunting the Abyss
6) The Advent of a Martyr
7) Rose Hill
8) In the Cold Eyes of Wrath Pt. 2
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Luna's Call have succeeded in blending their inspirations in such a way that it feels like they're actually progressing something here, thus 'Divinity' falls within the genuine, rather than generic, prog camp."