Musical side projects are always an interesting proposition. These usually allow band members to try strange and wonderful things that they couldn’t normally get away with in their main musical projects. Sometimes though, these projects end up sounding almost exactly the same as the musician’s principal band and begs the question as to why even start up a musical side project in the first place?
Lunatic Soul, established by Mariusz Duda who is the bassist and vocalist of the much beloved Polish progressive rock band Riverside, seems to have taken an interesting approach. Walking on a Flashlight Beam sounds very “Riverside-ish”, but instead of regurgitating what Riverside has already done in the past, Lunatic Soul explores in-depth the atmospheric and ambient aspects of the “Riverside sound” resulting in an intensely ethereal and haunting journey.
RELEASE DATE: 13 October 2014 LABEL: Kscope
Walking on a Flashlight Beam kicks off with an interesting intro track of sorts, “Shutting Out the Sun”. The listener is greeted with the calming sounds of ocean waves washing onto a shoreline, but soon this calmness is replaced with a haunting and frankly jarring electronic piece which would not be out of place in some sort of twisted nightmare. The track then changes mood to something more triumphant and begins to crescendo with guitar, bass, vocals and synths all coming into play, and then finally peaking with rolling drums and humming choir.
Ending off this epic intro of sorts, one would think that the following track, “Cold” would pick up on the high established at the end of “Shutting Out the Sun”, but this isn’t so, quite the contrary as “Cold” begins with static and more jarring noises which leads into something that can only be described as otherworldly! “Cold” is an absolute stunner of a track with a beautiful, picked guitar chord progression being played throughout and backed up with a wonderful groovy and catchy bass line. The production really shines through on this track and with a good pair of headphones one can really get lost in the soundscape created by the guitars, bass, drums, synths and Mariusz Duda’s delicate vocals.
“Gutter” is another standout on Walking on a Flashlight Beam. It’s actually a pretty heavy and intense track with a bass line that really rumbles deeply and resonates in your skull! Mariusz Duda pulls off an impressive vocal performance and an even more impressive bass performance on this track. “Gutter” also show cases a very Middle-Eastern influence which is prevalent through out Walking on a Flashlight Beam and adds to the exotic and otherworldliness of the album.
“Stars Sellotaped” is an interesting ambient interlude beginning with the sound of a locking door and leading into a beautiful, spacey soundscape which leaves the listener floating away somewhere off-planet. This leads perfectly into “The Fear Within” which is another track which left me feeling uneasy and instantly changed my mood due to the creepy bells and electronic noises. I felt claustrophobic, as if I were trapped in a long, dark corridor surrounded by aging machinery that was somehow conscious and not too happy to have me there (my inner nerdy imagination running wild no doubt!).
“Treehouse” is one hell of a catchy track and brings to mind previous works of bands such as Radiohead, but it also left me pondering as to whether it fits into the overall sound of Walking on a Flashlight Beam. The track feels really up beat to be honest and didn’t quite flow as nicely from the jarring, menacing tracks that followed previously. On the other hand the track is really pretty and dreamy sounding.
“Pygmalion’s Ladder” clocks in at a whopping 12 minutes, but certainly doesn’t feel like it drags on. The first section of the track has some stellar acoustic guitar work backed up with some otherworldly synth sounds and even a shaker! The Middle-Eastern influences return making the track sound very exotic. The song’s twists and turns that are taken are wonderful and lead up to some really rocking prog-rock goodness towards the end!
“Sky Drawn Canyon” descends the album once again into utter lunacy with the return of dark sounding minor guitar chords and unnerving synths. Mariusz Duda’s vocals are really something to behold on “Sky Drawn Canyon”, being both silky smooth and airy, yet menacing. Finally we get to the finale of Walking on a Flashlight Beam and the albums self-titled track. There is a certainly an 80’s electronic influence on this track and brings to mind previous works by electronic composer Vangelis. This is definitely a slow burner which picks up towards the final 3 minutes with a wonderous reverb-soaked melody being played over crashing drums, a great way to end off any album.
Clearly from the review you can probably tell that I enjoyed listening to Walking on a Flashlight Beam. Is it a perfect album? Not really; some tracks were a tad too long and the disjointedness of the tracks didn’t help the flow of the album. The production is stellar but there were times where I wished some of the instruments were placed more forward in the mix such as the wonderful melody near the end of the albums self-titled track. Besides those nit-picks, I really can’t fault much else. Walking on a Flashlight Beam is an enjoyable listen, taking the listener on a mood-swinging journey that is both haunting, yet beautiful.