One of the first things that strikes you about Lunatic Soul 2 — the second solo album from Mariusz Duda, frontman for progressive rock cult favorites Riverside — is that it has such a big cinematic feel to it.
But this is not so much in the same way as your everyday, garden variety ambient film soundtrack (although there are plenty of those same type of prerequisite atmospherics here). Instead, this is an album where the words and music conjure actual, visual images of a somewhat weary traveler as he makes his way through, what in this case appears to be, a journey into the different shades and stages of the afterlife.
The album is in fact a continuation of Duda's first Lunatic Soul album, released in 2008. The cover art is even a reversed image in white of the black sleeve of the original, prompting some fans to call it "White Lunatic Soul."
But rather than just explore the lighter shades the white cover might suggest, Duda instead takes you through a series of songs which also offer glimpses into the darker side of what lies just beyond the veil. The common thread with all the songs is the journey itself. These are songs where you are literally put into the shoes of the traveler, as he makes his way through the musical purgatory conveyed so effectively through Duda's often quite stunning words and music.
Musically, the album draws from a broad range of genres and even geographic locales. You can hear bits and pieces of oriental, middle eastern, and Indian influences in songs like "Escape From ParadIce" and the instrumental "In Between Kingdom" which opens the record.
The prog influences are also there. Both "Otherwhere" and "Suspended In Whiteness" recall Steven Wilson's recent, more headier sounding work with Porcupine Tree on albums like The Incident, and on his own solo album Insurgentes. You even get a bit of the grand sweep of early Peter Gabriel-era Genesis on "Transition" (which reminded me a lot of some of the middle parts of that group's twenty plus minute opus "Suppers Ready").
But mostly, the music conveys a sense of drama throughout that is oddly, but pleasingly quite compelling. The music ebbs and rises in direct proportion to Duda's lyrics about a man making his way through the darkness and light associated with the afterworld of his loosely told story. Like I said, it plays almost like a movie, and often within a single song.