I absolutely love it when I am reminded why I wait to make year-end lists until, you know, the end of the year. Lucid Planet is back with their sophomore album, and I can say that it made me stop my “best of” thought processes dead in their tracks. Their new album is called “II”, and it released on November 14th.
Lucid Planet hail from Melbourne, Australia. In my opinion, their general style and tone should end up taking the progressive world by storm. The band includes Michael Box (guitar, website design, art direction), Darcy Rank (guitar, production, electronics), and Luke Turner (vocals, bass). You will also hear Chris Cameron on drums and percussion, Jade Alice on backing vocals, and Dan Richardson on flute and didgeridoo. I should mention that Jade has a fantastic voice and her moments are always highlights of whatever song she inhabits.
This band has truly surprised me. Their debut album from 2015 was definitely good. On it, the band showed their Tool influence quite a bit, and while I like that sound, I felt like the album promised greater potential. That turned out to be true. With this album, the band completely breaks the mold, displaying mastery of several genres. While I would still call this “progressive metal”, the band only truly visits that sound a few times on the album. This is a completely free, stream of consciousness style of record, and adore that.
The genres visited on this album simply astound me. We are taken from a modern progressive metal through dark tribal folk music to classic dub/reggae, and then on to trip hop, electronic, and Middle Eastern and dark Australian flavors. What makes all of this even more amazing is the fact this it feels like a seamless, graceful experience played out with an eclectic, pleasing range of instruments. This is beyond impressive. It feels like a journey in and of itself.
Those feelings are not a coincidence. The album centers thematically around the journey of a person who desires to break free from the monotonous struggles of life. It’s like the moment after enlightenment when you realize that this new knowledge and perspective are going to take you through some of the deepest, darkest, most alien places you’ve ever witnessed, but the transformation on the other side will be worth it. I know the feeling personally, so this speaks to me. The album plays into this journey by literally guiding us into strange, beautiful worlds of sound that feel quite strange and unnerving at times, but also brilliant.
I love the way “II” is structured. Its first and last songs, “Anamnesis” and “Zenith” (A-Z) are both primarily progressive metal in sound. They are both fantastic, too, with stunningly dark riffs and spacious atmospheres. Luke’s voice, too, fits all of this perfectly. If the rest of the album were like these songs, it would have been strong still, but the band chose a different path.
With “Entrancement”, things begin to morph. This rhythmic, pulsating atmospheric song feels ritualistic, haunted, and tribal in nature with baritone mutterings and beautiful vocals from Jade layered over everything. The winding flutes and unsettling aura are absolute winners. This might be my favorite song overall. Soon, though, we transition into “Organic Hard Drive”, an oozy, humid track that feels like an exploration of the cellular world. With visits to electronica and some more abstract ideas, this track will throw you for a loop. It is incredibly imaginative.
“Offer” comes next, and feels “normal” at first, but soon shows its cards: classic dub. This reggae style of sound works so well on this record, giving us a little funk in the midst of all this chaos. After three crazy tracks, the band revisits metal in “On the Way”, a stunning track with gorgeous guitar work and plenty of energy.
Yet, the band ends up in otherworldly territory again with “Digital Ritual”, another favorite. This is basically a trip-hopping Blade Runner tribute, but it gets incredibly abstract in the second half with textures and keys truly giving me goosebumps. Next, we get “Face the Sun”, a twelve-minute song that centers on a Middle Eastern vibe that often reminds me of Dead Can Dance. Grooving rhythms and wonderful vocal lines truly sell the experience, too. As the song processes, it begins to feel distinctly Aboriginal in flavor, with dark tribal, Australian sounds, such as the didgeridoo, driving a shadowy and phenomenal last few minutes.
After hearing this album, I was speechless. It is rare that a band improves so much between albums. “II” is sheer ambition, reminding me of why I love progressive music in the first place. This is risk-taking and exhaustive planning come to life in vivid, vibrant, colorful detail. Lucid Planet have released an album that will surely be one of the best this year.
Find Lucid Planet online: