LUNARIN Duae (Aging Youth)

Back in 2006, I had these words to say about Lunarin’s debut album, Chrysalis –

Lunarin is a goth rock trio from Singapore consisting of Linda Ong, Ho Kah Whye and Loo Eng Teck. Sure I realize that this album is distributed by Universal but the Singaporean angle must qualify Lunarin as an “underground” band. The Chrysalis is the kind of moody, atmospheric, dark rock album that the likes of 4AD have been releasing for years. There is a prog-rock edge to many of the tracks that border on pretentious but the fine instrumentation and Linda’s delicate larynx more than compensate. There are some keyboard passages (especially Shiver) that would not be out of place on a arty film score which add to the overall ambience of The Chrysalis. It seldom gets more exotic than this, boys and girls.

Four years later, Lunarin is back with an impressive sophomore effort that has built intelligently on the foundations that Chrysalis established. Certainly, Lunarin can no longer be easily summed up as a “goth rock trio” as their reach extends beyond your typical 4AD band. Sure, there are still lingering echoes of the influence of Evanescence and Tool but Lunarin has brought much more to the table.

I get the sense that the band recording Duae in a home studio has allowed them greater control (and perhaps liberty) to experiment with sounds, instrumentation, arrangements and vocals. Mature choices have been made in most cases resulting in the band taking a quantum leap from Chrysalis. Which is the mark of an excellent band of musicians/songwriters of course.

Duae opens with a rather incongruous piano instrumental (For Apollo), perhaps lulling the listener into a false sense of security before launching into the heavy undertones of Midas, unleashing a post-modern Sabbath vibe that would not have been out of place on Metallica’s black album, except that Linda Ong is (for me) a more palatable vocal proposition than James Hetfield ever could be.

Midas’ unerring weight lends credence to the rest of Duae’s proceedings as further excursions into metallic riff territory viz. Red and Serpentine provides evidence that Midas is no flash in the pan. Serpentine is the true revelation as the male-female vocal lines illuminate whilst exposition of holy wars and unholy warriors dominate the agenda. That all said, Red is no slouch, by any stretch of the imagination, Linda Ong’s vox gymnastics break new ground for the band, blending the metallic with the operatic. The fact that these three tracks running times individually exceed six minutes without losing relevance is a signal of Lunarin’s progressive rock prowess.

The band allows twists and turns to highlight the rest of Duae’s soundscape as tracks like the atmospheric Saturn, the insistent Coralline, the throbbing Icarus Rising, the crystalline The Sky (Algiers) and the epic ten-minute The Inquisition keeps the album interesting amongst the bedrock of metallic bliss. Although I must confess that I found the inclusion of two more piano pieces – To Forget and Solus Nebula – in the third and final act a little baffling as the opening For Apollo appeared to have served their functions. But in the big picture and final analysis, such indulgences are easily forgiven.

Since I “returned” to S-ROCK in 2007, there have been a couple of Singapore albums that I would gladly put up against any other album released in the same time frame anywhere else in the world. The list would include Plainsunset’s eponymous album, The Great Spy Experiment’s Flower Show Riots, B-Quartet’s Tomorrow Is Our Permanent Address and the Fire Fight’s Henri. Now I am pleased to include Lunarin’s Duae in this vaunted collection as well.

Absolutely essential.

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