Luna Sol – Below The Deep

 

It’s been four years since Denver quartet Luna Sol powered onto the scene, with a certain amount of buzz around the fact that frontman Dave Angstrom had recruited former Hermano bandmate John Garcia as a guest on debut album Blood Moon (Cargo Records). Follow-up Below The Deep (Slush Fund Recordings/Cargo Records) continues the theme of the band’s self-styled “High Mountain Rock,” which incorporates variety into the Desert template.

Opener ‘Black Cloud’ is, well, just hands-down Heavy Rock. Brooding choruses rattle along with a booming rhythm section, Angstrom’s voice a low, sinister whisper, while the bridges are more tempered and feature fine solo work. The Queens Of The Stone Age feel is undeniable during quieter moments, but another refreshing option is the dual vocal responsibility between Angstrom and bassist Shannon Fahnestock, which lightens the path further. The ensuing title track shares a similar road, its fiery passages urgent and powerful and which push home a blistering coda.

There’s a catchiness to some of the songs here: ‘Along The Road’ is a slow, snaking groove, Angstrom’s voice gradually growing from a low croon to a throaty roar while a midriff gallops with guarded ferocity. ‘Man’s Worth Killin”, meanwhile, is a sloth-like, crushing riff machine with a nefarious Blues undercurrent that delights as it chills. ‘Sometimes We Get It Right’, however, is a more up-tempo but trite and uninspiring rocker: the choruses flaccid and bridges enlivened only by nifty soloing and Fahnestock’s vocal.

There’s a definite improvement when tracks are graced by the full impact of Fahnestock’s rollicking bass and the steady, pacier stickwork of Justin Baier. ‘The Dying Conglomerate’, while still lacking a degree of urgency, is pushed along nicely by that burning rhythm section, while the driving rhythms and dual leads of ‘Hallelujah’ contribute to a good old-fashioned, organ-led Blues Rock gem. The band does beauty well also: ‘Mammoth Cave’ and the standout ‘Garden Of The Gods’ are akin to Audioslave power ballads, Angstrom finally letting loose with a Cornell-esque throat.

‘Wait For It’ is another pensive rocker, exploding at the chorus but underpinned deliciously by a pulverising yet steady riff, its centrepiece truly lascivious. The brief interlude ‘Sumergida’ is the sound of the sea crashing and enveloping, with a slight twang of a sitar in the distance, and this leads perfectly into closer ‘Home’: initially hypnotic and languid, the chorus fires into life with Angstrom and Fahnestock coming across like Johnny Cash and June Carter. There are some really special moments here that, fortunately for all concerned, largely outweigh the few clunky areas and which make Below The Deep a pleasing and intriguing experience.

7 / 10

PAUL QUINN