Sunday, March 1, 2009

Review: Luna Mortis - The Absence (2009)

Luna Mortis [ MySpace ]
The Absence

Luna Mortis (formerly known as The Ottoman Empire) is a female-fronted melodic thrash outfit from Madison, Wisconsin. On The Absence, their Century Media debut, the band exhibits many similarities to Montreal-based label mates The Agonist. The fetching Mary Zimmer mixes both harsh and clean vocals much like Alissa White-Gluz does, though hers are well balanced while White-Gluz opts for the harsher style more often than not. Musically Luna Mortis is more on the technical/progressive side of thrash than The Agonist, who incorporate considerable *core elements into their sound, though both bands feature very precise guitar work. The Canadians "made the scene" a couple of years ago, which leaves Luna Mortis to play catch-up while embracing a sound that has been heard before. Does The Absence contain enough fresh material to overtake contemporary albums?

Not really. Even so, the guitar mastery of Brian Koenig and Cory Scheider is undeniable. The Absence is rife with swirling, technical riffs (particularly on "Reformation"), and each song features a number of caustic solos. "Ruin" features some interesting pinch harmonics, but overall Koenig and Scheider don't provide anything that is particularly innovative. Drummer Erik Madsen also performs his duties with precision and excellence, particularly with the blast beats on "Reformation", but his rhythm partner Jacob Bare is barely discernible (no pun intended). That certainly has more to do with production than anything else, but it would have been nice to hear a little more bottom end now and then.

Zimmer's vocals are, naturally, a mixed bag. Although not operatic in the vein of Tarja Turunen (Nightwish), her clean vocals are significantly stronger than her aggressive growls and snarls. This is most evident on the power ballad "This Departure" during which she sticks almost exclusively to her clean style and gives her best, most convincing performance of the album. She's a little shaky on "Ruin", invoking a bit too much vibrato, but she nails the European Power Metal inspired "Forever More" - once again sticking almost entirely with clean vox. It's not that her harsh vocal style is bad, per se, only less convincing than when she sings cleanly.

Ultimately, The Absence is in fact a decent album. Genre fans will undoubtedly eat this one up, but after a couple of spins the staying power begins to fade and a sense of monotony creeps in. However, pitted against The Agonsit - frontwomen aside - I would take Luna Mortis' crisp, technical style any day. They just need to deliver something fresh and memorable on their next album.

Track Listing
1 Ash 4:41
2 Ruin 4:02
3 Reformation 3:17
4 This Departure 5:10
5 The Absence 4:13
6 Forever More 3:39
7 Never Give In 6:24
8 Phantoms 3:56
9 Last Defiance 4:26
10 Embrace The End 6:22
Total Runtime 46:10

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