It feels quite hard to find music that quite fits the current zeitgeist, which recently seems to have descended into a cacophony of shit coming at us from all angles. There’s a global pandemic raging, the environment is dying, democracies are breaking down, discrimination of all kinds is still rife across society, and the most wealthy counties in the world are selling arms to profit from war. All this while the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. It’s sometimes hard to know where to even start in the fightback, but what can help is some brutal, heavy and epic music to motivate that rage into something tangible and worthwhile.
This is where Recurring Nightmare comes in, the sophomore album from Boston’s Lunar Ark. Following on from last year’s Homecoming | Apostasy, a mesmerising slab of atmospheric sludge, Recurring Nightmare is a much murkier affair that often sounds like the bastard child of Bongripper and Thou, with elements of post-metal that cut through the darkness. Across three tracks and half an hour of runtime, Recurring Nightmare aims to swallow you into the mire while also making you bang your head and scream your heart out. For as much as the void that Lunar Ark present seems pretty attractive, the band also pervade a real sense of fist-pumping rebellion against the gloomy depression that we’d be so welcome to fall into.
The opening track ‘Torch And Spear’ is twelve solid minutes of raw blackened sludge with a slight stoner flavour, and it rarely lets up for more than a brief moment. We get our first helping of the promised post-metal in the second track ‘Freedom Fever Dream’, which opens with a sample from author Henry Miller. The first section delivers another pounding of dirge-like riffs and tortuous screams before a beautifully melancholic guitar melody appears, bookended by powerful dynamic drums and sweet yet stark clean vocals. When the band return to their slow violence for the final section, they do bring just a little of that shimmering light forward. The repetitive riffs on ‘Guillotine’ balance right on the edge of tedium, but they also expel an air of anarchic positivity whilst a hate filled ferocity segues from the vocals. That defiant spirit reaches full strength in the final leg of the track as a clean shoegaze-esque movement progresses into an emotive finale of raucous doom instrumentation and inspiring atmospheric vocals.
Although Recurring Nightmare is full of leaden riffs and crawling tempos, they are designed to evoke a reaction. The sections of post-metal influenced melancholy are what make this record memorable, and as such Lunar Ark stand out from the wealth of other depressive sludge bands who mostly seem to aim towards Primitive Man levels of misanthropy and nihilism. That isn’t the feeling you’ll get from Recurring Nightmare though; instead you will be left with an overwhelming desire to face this world of shit head on, and resist the bleakness of our existence.
Recurring Nightmare is out on September 10th via Trepanation Recordings and can be ordered here.
Words: Will J