If there is a Shambhala it is inarguably found within the cognizance that supports all experience, a corrupted spiritual inner kingdom faceted with an apocalyptic premise of succession. The physical vessel and its inseparable consciousness are organisms of sensation, processors sourly imbued with conditioned disposition per any given civil societal setting. The “self” is useless conceptualization to the sensorial creature as it denatures the function of the human being to a starving beast within their environs as one clings to an illusion of will, importance, and power. The continual interplay of elemental consciousness may very well appear dynamic yet all interactions are self-fed, and only a greed-stricken mutant mind would deign continue to struggle on clinging to unattainable, imaginary constructs in such a way. — These ‘Shambhallic Vibrations‘ by the hands, feet and mouths of internationally spread progressive death metal quartet Lunar Chamber offer psychedelia-tinged idealization in exploration of Buddhist mysticism per the unwillingly Christocentric mind, setting out on a quest of spiritual tourism which treats devotional history as mythic legendry. In seeking the face value transcendental goal of the ancient religion as a point of inspiration the wonderment of discovery offers natural revelation for progressive extreme metal of a very high standard and in succinct yet grandiose showing. These immensely talented individuals manage a mostly coherent thematic presence to base their exploration of modern progressive death metal potentiate upon herein, an exceptional debut which features a surprising turn of events that’ll leave many awestruck under its wheel.
Lunar Chamber formed in 2018 between Atlanta, Georgia-based guitarist/vocalist Kyle Walburn of progressive black metal act Tómarúm alongside frequent collaborator Quebec-based guitarist/vocalist Brandon Iacovella of Proliferation wherein their aim seems to have been a decidedly atmospheric treatment of progressive technical death metal, their major thesis being that those textures and aptitudes can likewise be applied to an atmospheric doom metal style as an additional (but key) part of the overall procession of events. As writing for this EP began in late 2019 and recording began in 2021 the assumption is that this finely detailed debut was both heavily considered and edited down to prime efficacy while also serving as a side project while the compositional/release cycle for their main act’s debut LP (‘Ash in Realms of Stone Icons‘) took precedence in order. To speed the process and deliver an entirely professional result the main duo soon included the fretless bass guitar talents of Thomas Campbell (ex-Alcyone) and the always brilliant drumming from Kévin Paradis for their rhythm section. Each performer involved in these recordings has otherwise proven some considerable virtuosic talent and in this sense ‘Shambhallic Vibrations‘ arrives full-fledged and prepared with a coherent aesthetic, easily read conceptual girding, and an already well-defined stylistic reach which aims for a masterfully steadied touch.
When firing up this ~29 minute record it reads as an unusual choice, not that such sleek and densely populated modern prog-death is unheard of per Lunar Chamber‘s label but that this record is not entirely indebted to the organic origins of the sub-genre beyond a few crawling riffs. If anything “Spirit Body and the Seeing Self” has more in common with the brutal space-faring of Afterbirth or the warmed-over dark psyche of Sutrah rather than anything functionally tied to the early 90’s. Watery, gargled vocals and punishing brutality on “The Bodhi Tree” lend a technical death flair with spaced interruptions that Artificial Brain scanners will at least appreciate for their memorable ventures outside of the greater hulk of the action. This is just one side of the experience and it was certainly designed to create a sensation of focused journey and revelatory enlightenment as we cross from the deeper-dwelling Side A to the very different second half. The brilliance of the spectacular, almost Mithras-esque final rise of “The Bodhi Tree” is that unbeknownst to the listener the song begins developing and eventually reveals the major melodic motif for the entirety of Side B. It’ll still be a surprise when we get there and much of the awe-stricken effect of the full listen heavily depends on what happens next.
While progressive metal musicians have made attempts at atmospheric doom, funeral doom and funeral death/doom metal records with varying success these typically treat extreme doom metal as a pace-setter rather than making any real attempt to capture the standards of the niche. With “III. Crystalline Blessed Light Flows… From Violet Mountains Into Lunar Chambers” we find these fellowes merging the experience of modern progressive death metal up against a grand finale of funeral death/doom. I don’t doubt that the thoughtful resonances of groups like Lycus, Un and even labelmates Atramentus could feasibly be compared to what this song does to start, its first three minutes are lumber-tipping death/doom metal with a psychedelic lustre to its movement that is basic yet naturally satisfying in its deeply growled lurch. Once that first portion of the song opens with its bellows the “chorus” reveals itself with a clean-chanted chorale of the title of the song before a quick drop into silence and a minute refrain into celestial synth ambiance. This sort of patience is at least indicative that this big idea was rooted in some taste for, or understanding of the effect of funeral death/doom and how it might combine with aggressive prog-death, which it does as we reach the ~6 minute mark. The thirteen minute song resolves in what are essentially three uneven acts, perhaps their latent Opeth influences shining within false stops and a run-on exit which grows increasingly ebullient as the final three minutes build up toward the major melody of the piece being repeated for effect. This type of piece could’ve going awfully wrong for the sake of how indulgent it is in its theatric composition yet it ultimately “makes” the album and completes the narrative vision which ‘Shambhallic Vibrations‘ surprises with.
I’ve no negative criticism for the render of the album, as the choice to hand the mix to Greg Chandler (Priory Recording Studios) and the master to Colin Marston (Thousand Caves) feels entirely logical per the progressive, death, and extreme doom metal realities that each are specifically experted within. The bass guitar is properly represented, the vocal layers weave within the piece in a notable fashion and the step from banging prog-death to contemplative death/doom somehow feels natural as it reveals itself. Well, naturally surreal at the very least; The album artwork, or, rather the layout on the other hand will have to be a minor complaint as the Moonroot illustrated piece is appreciably colorful in its representation though it begins to overwhelm beneath the color choice for the logo and frame of the piece. It muddies up within the at-a-glance read of the image, my eye wanted more contrast (or, gold foil?) anyhow. The visual design reminds me more of The Artisan Era‘s more earthy side (see: Greylotus and such) in terms of the aesthetic, situating the eye far from classicist envision. Again, a minor point not to end up belabored but the whole package called for something darker in my mind.
As a debut statement ‘Shambhallic Vibrations‘ feels entirely considered, tastefully presented and virtuosic to the point of nigh jaw dropping spectacle. The “twist” of the full event is perhaps even more impressive, an unexpected revelation from a virtually unknown project which is easily read and repeatable while still feeling like a new prospect in the modern but not history-blind world of progressive death metal. It ends up being the perfect introduction which already leaves the mind spinning with possibilities, not only for stylistic points of fusion but for the heady religious themes that give the event such a strong atmospheric focal point. A high recommendation.
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