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Lunarsea - "Route Code Selector" (CD)

Lunarsea - "Route Code Selector" CD cover image

"Route Code Selector" track listing:

1. Magnitude 9.6
2. Metamorphine
3. In A Firmness Loop Day
4. The Apostate
5. Ashen
6. Five-Sided Platform Shape
7. Found Me Cryogenized
8. Infinite Process One
9. Sulphur's Song, The Swan Died
10. Subspace Transition

Reviewed by on December 8, 2009

"Expertly played and produced, Lunarsea's 'Route Code Selector' combines crushing heaviness with moments of lightness and beauty. This is death metal that will make you come alive."

I don't care what genre of music it is, there's just something electric that happens when a band is firing on all cylinders. Brothers and sisters, Lunarsea's "Route Code Selector" will have your hair standing on end for an hour after you're done listening to the album. On their MySpace page, this band from Italy quantifies itself as a death and black metal band. But, like their countrymen Disarmonia Mundi, they're only telling about half the story. The band cuts across genres expertly.

As is my usual habit, I threw the CD in my player before I even took a look at the booklet and, until I heard vocalist Filippo Palma's formidable growl, I'd have sworn this was a power metal album. After all, the opening riff to "Magnitude 9.6" has a light-but-heavy feel to it (to steal a popular Zeppelin-ism). Then, the vocals hit and it turns heavy as hell, even as the band speeds up. Still, even amid the high-speed thrashing, guitarists Fabiano Romagnoli and Emiliano Pacioni maintain a power metallers taste for speed and arpeggios in the frequent fills and solos.

"Metamorphine" follows a more traditionally death/black/thrash mode, hitting warp speed much sooner. And yet, there's an almost comforting bed of synthesizer, courtesy of Romagnoli, that gives even the fastest sections of the song a strong sense of melody.

The album's most ambitious track, "In A Firmness Loop Day," has an almost symphonic feel to it, with movements both fast and slow. It's also got some ambitious vocals from Palma and bassist Cristian Antolini that contrast the harsh screams with clean vocals to superb effect.

Usually, synthesizers serve to add lightness to heavy tunes, which makes "Found Me Cryogenized" such an interesting curveball. Here, Romagnoli's symphonic synth has such a crushing heaviness to it that it makes the song appropriately claustrophobic.

The power metal sound returns on "Sulphur's Song, The Swan Died" to spectacular effect, with clean guitars, synths and initially clean vocals. One of my favorite sections has almost Van Halen-ish guitars contrasting with death metal screams.

Guest artist Dimitris Marinis of the band X-Piral makes a superb contribution to "Subspace Transition," with a beautifully elegiac piano part that gives way to a thrashy guitar riff. The song also features terrific guitar solos before segueing back into the piano for a gorgeous ending.

The true star of Lunarsea is drummer Stuart Franzoni, who handles the speed and style changes to absolute perfection and provides a potent reminder of how an expert percussionist can add melodic strength. The first time I listened to "Route Code Selector," I let myself get lost in Franzoni's deft drumming that actually helped to bring out the best in all the other instruments.

On the nearly negligible negative side are a couple of lesser tunes, "The Apostate" and "Five-Sided Platform Shape," that, while not bad, just don't rise to the level of sheer genius of most of the rest of the album. The death growls on the album, while entirely appropriate, could've been accented with a few more clean vocals, and I wouldn't have complained. But none of that seriously detracts from the otherwise superb listening experience.

Expertly played and produced, Lunarsea's "Route Code Selector" combines crushing heaviness with moments of lightness and beauty. This is death metal that will make you come alive.

Highs: Expert playing and production throughout, with "Magnitude 9.6,"In A Firmness Loop Day," and "Subspace Transition" especially standing out.

Lows: A couple lesser tracks, "The Apostate" and "Five Sided Platform Shape," don't add much — or take it away, for that matter.

Bottom line: A superb melodic death metal album that expertly crosses genres and styles.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)