Written by Kep
Lunar Chamber – Shambhallic Vibrations
> Progressive brutal death metal
> Releasing April 28
> 20 Buck Spin
When Shambhallic Vibrations was announced and its sounds first graced speakers, it was a like a gift had been teased for metalheads with my precise taste. Progressive and technical death metal, brutal yet serene, epic yet intimate, the esoteric and the spiritual delivered with sparkling musicianship and gratifying heaviness. The outfit features the two core members of Atlanta black metal outfit Tómarúm (whose outstanding debut Ash in Realms of Stone Icons was my 2022 AOTY) under the pseudonyms Timeworn Nexus and They, Who May Not Be Perceived, fretless bass courtesy of someone called Æther Lotus (Thomas Campbell), and drums from the exceptional Kévin Paradis of Benighted. People in the know were calling Lunar Chamber the spiritual successor to Lykathea Aflame, which is quite the claim on a number of levels, all of which intrigued me. I was as gung ho to hear this record as anything on my radar for the year, and I was far from the only one.
Whipping up that sort of excitement on the back of nothing more than an announcement and a single is no small feat—almost as big of a feat as it would be to deliver entirely on the lofty expectations that were set in that excitement. So now to the question of the day: does Shambhallic Vibrations deliver? The answer is yes, absolutely. It’s almost flawless. Almost.
This album does a lot of things spectacularly well, and chief among them is establishing a wholly unique sound. Lunar Chamber’s expansive, spiritual take on brutal death doesn’t have any true parallels in the modern scene, at least to my ears, and their richly detailed texture is made even more distinct by that fretless bass and the way they work in spacey progressive shred solos. The band balances so many approaches, techniques, tones, and influences across the record’s runtime that it’s a wonder any of it makes sense together, and yet the tracks are seamless, glorious things that feel perfectly in harmony with themselves. Perhaps the single most impressive thing about Shambhallic Vibrations is the way that at any given moment the music can turn into something new entirely, and not even once does a transition feel rushed or jarring. It just works like it couldn’t be any other way, every single time.
This is top-tier extreme metal songwriting, using everything that modern production and playing offers to create vibrant music that feels warm and alive. The band is plenty happy to batter ruthlessly at times, as anyone who checked out lead single “Spirit Body and the Seeing Self” and its multiple sections of bonecrunching brutal death can tell you; they’ll also charm you with bright passages of burnished chiming guitar that ring out like rays of light breaking through cloud cover. But it’s never just one thing; they’ll place those burly riffs into a bed of synth like hulking boulders within a pool of moonlit water, and ring those gleaming notes above caveman chugs while the bass warps and burps below, changing something familiar into something far more mystical and alien. Everything layers in with something else, morphing the songs from moment to moment. Ripping tech chunk melts into roiling brutality, searing shred becomes coiling, twitching bass solo, eerie synth with spoken word and angular Demilich-esque writhing stand shoulder to shoulder with towering doom, cavernous rumbling growls, and harrowing screams.
The record’s grand finale, the monumental 13-minute “Crystalline Blessed Light Flows… From Violet Mountains into Lunar Chambers”, is one of the most remarkable achievements this year in metal so far. From its mysterious synth-heavy opening, to the glowering of its enormous funeral doom stretch, to the majestic chant-like melody to which the title lyrics are sung, to the earthshaking blasting passages and intercut touches of steely plucked guitar, to its opposing moments of almost meditative calm and trudging weight, to the nirvana of its extended solo that sings plaintively and screams flame in equal measure, everything is held in exquisite cohesion by the through-line of a single motif and its related harmonies. It’s impossible not to be impressed by the vision on display in a track like this, not to mention the sheer variety of sounds that Lunar Chamber molds into one single composition. And you might miss it on first listen, but you’ll definitely notice by the second that that chant melody has appeared before, near the end of “The Bodhi Tree”.
My one real gripe with the album is that the whole thing feels somewhat truncated, and its two instrumental tracks are the culprits. The total runtime is a surprisingly brief 29 minutes, which in and of itself isn’t a problem, but the 1:38 intro and the 49-second “Interlude (Ancient Saga)” both seem oddly unfinished, with the intro ending abruptly just as it feels like it’s getting rolling and the filler-y interlude never really doing much in the first place. It’s strange to think of such a short album as having filler, but that’s the vibe from those two tracks. Hell, even “Spirit Body and the Seeing Self” suffers from a mild case of “how do we end this song”-itis, sort of just ceasing to be rather than arriving at a stopping point. Shambhallic Vibrations is so close to being wholly brilliant, but these choices keep the record from getting there.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There’s no two ways about it: Lunar Chamber is one of the most exciting new bands in the metal scene today. While not without some minor flaws, Shambhallic Vibrations is an utter triumph, a heady mixture of the brutal, the strange, and the sublime. The band has created a sound all their own, and I can’t wait to hear more of it.