When individual band members want to record a solo album, they usually have two options: recording music that remains close to their familiar musical style of the band they're in or recording an album that completely differs. Well, I mostly prefer the second option. Therefore, I'm glad that singer and bass player Mariusz Duda (Riverside) took the chance to create his solo project Lunatic Soul (see interview) which is completely different from the compositions he normally writes for Riverside. For a vocalist it's most difficult to make a solo album because, in general, the vocals are one of the most noticeable elements of a band. However, Mariusz Duda is a very creative person and that resulted in two coherent albums. The first eponymous album, or if you like The Black Album, was released in 2008. In 2010 the follow-up was released simply called Lunatic Soul II. According to the album cover it could have been called The White Album as well.
To what extent does the second album differ from its very ambient, atmospheric and laid-back predecessor? Well, this time Mariusz Duda paid more attention to the acoustic guitar, while on the first album percussion elements stood out a bit more. However, the major feeling of both albums is quite similar. When I saw the white album cover of Lunatic Soul II, I expected a more bright and cheerful album after the reasonable dark and moody eponymous album, but I was wrong. The dark and atmospheric sounds continued on the new album and when I think about it, this is the way it should be. Duda spreads his story over two albums and subsequently there should be a kind of similarity in the approach of both albums, I think.
So, here the story of the journey through the afterworld continues, opening with The In-Between Kingdome, a kind of soundscape, driven by the acoustic guitar and the softly sounding background vocals over a nice drum pattern. Next the journey takes us to Otherwhere with relaxed and wonderful vocals over the acoustic guitar. For me Duda's voice sounds really heavenly with a hint of Led Zeppelin or perhaps the No Quarter-album by Page & Plant. Suspended In Whiteness is an epic-like piece based on an ever returning melody. The song builds up from soft and melodic to a powerful middle-section ending calm and relaxed again. Asoulum should be placed in the same category as the previous song; it's again a jewel that grows on you. As an interlude, Limbo is used as a bridge to the rhythmic Escape From Paradise with lots of percussion where the piano takes the melody. Then suddenly the majestic bass takes over, to make this the heaviest song of the Lunatic Soul II album. Next is another progressive epic. Transition contains a dark and moody atmosphere, with keyboard layers and again Duda's very emotional vocals which is the icing on Lunatic Soul's cake. Gravestone Hill again has that awesome acoustic guitar blended with the breathtaking vocals. Together with Otherwere for me these two songs are the most precious diamonds on this great album. The album ends with Wandering having a bit of programmed drums and powerful vocals. I think this song opens the gate to people who normally don't buy albums like this.
After the immense popularity of his band Riverside, Mariusz Duda has succeeded in creating some very special solo albums, completely different from what the band stands for, but with an equally high standard in music. The second Lunatic Soul album is a worthy successor to the highly acclaimed and well received first album. I think this is just the beginning of a career that will do very well alongside the already successful Riverside.
Click here to read the interview with Mariusz Duda
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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