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LUNARIS


LUNARIS - A Dark New Hope


By Dr. Abner Mality

In the realm of the extreme, only a chosen few truly reach the apex of both creativity and fury. Such a band is Lunaris. Hailing from Norway, home to many bands that have challenged the status quo, this mercurial outfit maintains a feral bloodlust while exhibiting a stunning musical proficiency. They not only kill...they kill with precision!

How to explain the Lunaris sound? Mere words of mine will fail to convey the power, so I suggest you investigate their latest Earache Records release, the magnificent "Cyclic". Here is that rare record that contains no filler, that enthralls from beginning to end. Speed, heaviness, atmosphere, creativity...all merge seamlessly into the shining darkness that is "Cyclic". A screaming black metal riff there...crushing death groove here...a beautifully melodic solo...vocals that range from the operatic to the bone-chillingly evil...a sense of unpredictability...a pattern of flow...a desire to surpass the expected.

Somewhere within the threads binding these qualities together, you will find "Cyclic".

Naturally, after hearing such an indispensable record, I had to track the band down. After trial and travail, I finally got a call from the enigmatic "M", mastermind of Lunaris. The following is the result of that call...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: This may be a little tedious for you, but can you give us a brief history of Lunaris and tell us what the current line-up is ?

M: We started in late 1998 with myself and Balfori, our singer. I was working at a studio at the time and I knew Stannulf Gunnerson from Spiral Architect so we hooked up with him when we found out he wanted to play in a band. From there, we hooked up with our previous drummer and things just took off from there. It took some time to get our first album recorded and released. Since then, we've had a few line-up changes but we've settled down with our current line-up, which is me and Balfori, Ray on Keyboards and Janos on drums. Our two newest members are H.P. on guitars and Dr. Dream on bass.

WC: You think this is gonna be a stable line-up?

M: Well, you never know with Lunaris! It changes a lot, but it's the most stable line-up we've had for a long time. We feel really comfortable together. Things are a lot smoother so I can see this going forward for quite some time.

WC: You have a really technical style, but you're not so over the top that the music is hard to understand. Is your songwriting pretty spontaneous or is it laid out with a lot of precision?

M: It's extremely spontaneous. Most of the songs on both of our albums have some groove to them. I just start writing and once I get into that groove, I just churn them out. Writing like that, a lot of it gets thrown away as well. If I'm not feeling it, then it's not gonna be any good. I've never been able to get into the style of songwriting where I write songs for months at a time. We left polishing things up to the pre-production side of things. When we know we have a song that we can work with, the band starts to pick it apart and then put it back together again.

WC: Does Lunaris play live or has it been more of a studio project?

M: So far, it's been very studio-oriented. We're just starting to play live now and we're working on some tours this summer. It's basically been our line-up problems that have given us grief regarding playing live. We haven't had that line up yet that was 100% committed to taking this on the road. We have that line-up now, so it's something we're really looking forward to.

WC: How hard is it to reproduce the "Cyclic" material live? It sounds very demanding...


M: Again, we've never considered the music we play to be very technical or progressive. Basically, it's the only way I know how to write music and it feels very natural to me. When we recorded the album, we had the goal of making an album that we could take on the road. There are really not that many elements of the music that can't be reproduced live. There's not many guitar overdubs so it should transfer to the live forum pretty good.

WC: On the "Cyclic" album, you were able to hook up with high profile guests like Steve DiGiorgio (Testament/Death/Sadus/Iced Earth), Eric Peterson (Testament/Dragon Lord), Asgeir (Borknagar), Sverd (Arcturus)...

M: Well, actually, it's only two of those people on the album. Eric was a little bit trigger-happy with the name-dropping there. It's really only Steve DiGiorgio and Asgeir Mickelson who play on the album. We were working with both Eric and Sverd, but because of time constraints, they never made it on to the actual album. We were extremely pleased to have both Steve and Asgeir on the album.

WC: It sounds like the roots of Lunaris are in black metal but you have a lot of other influences. Do you get any resistance from the oldschool "elite" black metal types? What's the general reaction to Lunaris within that scene?

M: Here in Norway, the metal community is fairly small. We pretty much know everybody and so far everybody's been very supportive. Most of the guys from the oldschool Norwegian style of black metal are now trying to pioneer a more musical style these days. It's not really a problem at all.

WC: Unfortunately I didn't get lyrics with my promo, but it seems that they are very integral to the band's sound. Is "Cyclic" a concept album or are the songs just loosely linked?

M: Actually, we're very much a music-oriented band and while the lyrics have meaning to us, they're not something we're pushing. We're not labelling our band after a certain ideology. If people can get something out of our lyrics, then that's cool, but it's not something that we feel is important for the way we portray the music. The lyrics deal mostly with personal reflections and views on everyday life. And I guess that's something everyone can relate to.

WC: You start off the album with the song "Mendacities of a Corporate Messiah". Is that about a specific individual or just a general type of person?

M: No, that actually is a bit out of the norm as far as my lyrics go. That deals with a very specific subject. It deals with the Scientology Movement. I've always heard about it but last year I came across a website. the biggest anti-Scientology website on the net, and I just started reading a whole lot about it. It really pissed me off and that's where that came from.

WC: A lotta big Hollywood stars like Tom Cruise and Robert DeNiro are heavy into that movement...

M: It's a fascinating story but when I think of a lot of innocent people being brainwashed...we wanted to kick the album off with a really hard and brutal song and that track reflects the feelings I had when I was writing about that subject.

WC: I could hear the spite in that track!

M: Yeah, we always write the lyrics after the music is done. I actually wrote that music way before I got into that entire subject and the hatred in it really fit the feelings I had.

WC: What do the initials of the song "I.A.D." stand for?


M: That was actually a little bit of a joke on Earache, On our first album "The Infinite", they labelled us as "intricate astral metal" and we really did not know what they meant by that. So we've been playing around with it. We told them it really stands for "intricate astral deception". It's not funny for anybody but us, really.

WC: I assume the misspelling of the word "peace" in the song "Casualties of Piece" was deliberate?

M: No, not at all. (Wrong again, Dr. Moron!--Dr. Moron) . That was the label's fault. On the final CD release, it's been corrected.

WC: Well, that blew my question out of the water...

M: I really don't know what it would have meant if the misspelling was deliberate. (laughs)

WC: The most intriguing song on "Cyclic" is, if I'm getting it right, "Altruismens Gravol"...

M: Right, that's close enough.

WC: That song was a response to a speech by a Norwegian philosopher named Ole Hallesby. Is that his voice we hear at the beginning of the track?

M: Yeah, that's an old radio speech from him.

WC: What was he saying and what was your response to it?

M: Actually, that lyric was written by Ray, our keyboard player, and it was a very personal thing for him. Hallesby was a very extravagant, doomsday kind of preacher. The whole speech starts out with him condemning everybody. He can't figure out how people can go to sleep at night without being born again or converted, because you could wake up in Hell if you don't. We play off that in the rest of the song, with some rewritten Bible verses and stuff like that.

WC: A play on guilt...

M: Yes. The word "altruismen" is just like the English word altruism (meaning generosity with no expectation of reward--Bookworm Mality). "Altruismens Gravol" basically means the end of altruism...the end of an era, so to speak. I've never really gotten that much into the deeper meaning of the lyric...you'd have to ask Ray for that...but I do know the general meaning of it.

WC: How important was it for the lyrics to be sung in Norwegian for that cut?

M: It wasn't really important, but we felt since the speech was in Norwegian, it made a lot more sense to respond to it in the same language. It wasn't something where we felt we had to have Norwegian lyrics on the album.

WC: The record ends with "Mot Natt", another track in Norwegian, which I've heard described as "a call to arms".

M: It was some lyrics I wrote back in 94 or 95. It was very old school Norse, Viking-type lyrics that were meant somewhat as a joke. But when we put those lyrics to that song, we really liked it and felt it should be on the album. Again, as with most things with Lunaris, it's not meant to be taken that seriously, it's kind of tongue in cheek.

WC: How do see yourself developing in the future? Do you see Lunaris adding more symphonic elements?

M: I've started writing stuff for the next album, but we haven't gotten far enough into it to develop a feeling for what the general direction is going to be. It's the same situation as our first two albums. The songs are so varied, so different that we don't feel constricted in what we can or can't do. We've never felt any pressure that way at all.

WC: Even though the songs are quite varied, it seems speed is always going to play some part in your music.

M: Yeah. Well, it has so far. It wouldn't surprise me if the next album came out and it was a lot softer. Whatever we feel represents us at the time is going to wind up on the album. Most of the stuff that I've written so far for the next album is showing a bit more of my progressive rock influences but there's still some pretty hot and heavy stuff in there.


WC: I'm actually able to pick up some of the prog influences you have. What would you say your strongest influences are?

M: I've always been a fan of jazz. I don't think the jazz influence has gotten into my songwriting much, but I'm a huge fan of everything in the 70's progressive rock genre. Stuff like Yes, Rush, Kansas. But at the same time I really love the 90's black and death metal, both European and American. It all finds a way into my music.

WC: In my review, I say I've never heard a band that packs so much into such a short space of time and not have it sound like a mess.

M: That's a huge compliment.

WC: A lot of the stuff now is just over the top craziness, with no catchiness to it. It's not easy to get into. But the Lunaris stuff is very extreme, but it flows better from point to point without sounding like a jagged collection of riffs.

M: It's very important to me when I write songs that they have to have some kind of groove. I'm kind of old fashioned that way. It might not come across that way to the listeners, but groove is very important, whether it's more progressive stuff or die-hard death metal. It has to move the song forward. Putting weird stuff in a song just for the sake of weirdness...I've never been able to do that.

WC: What was the last CD you got just for your own enjoyment?

M: I think the last one I bought was actually the new Dream Theater CD.

WC: What did you think of it?

M: It was definitely a step in the right direction. I was pretty disappointed in their last couple of studio albums. I feel they are moving more towards the "Awake" era but with an updated sound.

WC: What was the last concert you went to just for your own enjoyment?

M: Mmmmm, I think it was the Inferno Festival that was here. Last band I saw was Sadus, with Steve DiGiorgio. It was really cool, I've been waiting a long time to see them.

WC: Have you ever had anything like a Spinal Tap moment in your career?

M: I don't think there's a single incident because of the way Lunaris has worked up to now. We've been a "split band". There were seven or eight months where we didn't even rehearse or anything.We haven't been together that much for those incidents to arise but I'm sure they'll come now that we're starting to tour. The first two or three years, when we were constantly on the verge of making something work, we dealt with the constant frustration of not reaching that final goal. That bordered on absurdity. It's refreshing now that we look back.

WC: Any plan to come over and play something like Milwaukee Metalfest?

M: Oh, absolutely. If anybody will have us, we'll be on the first flight over there. We're definitely working on it. We're going to do the European tour thing this summer and then start working on the new album this fall. We definitely want to get over to the States on the third album, if not before.

WC: Any final words to the Lunaris fans out there?

M: We just hope people check out the "Cyclic" CD and we hope to see people as soon as possible on tour.