Merced’s Footsteps – Exclusive Interview with Luna’s Call

Luna’s Call (L-to-R): Brad Laver (bass/vocals), Neil Purdy (guitar/vocals), Liam Underdown (guitar), Jamie Batt (drums).

An administrative error meant Scream Blast Repeat missed the sophomore album from Luna’s Call in August 2020. Of course, we should have known about these Lincoln virtuosos and their colourful progressive death metal, but it took a recommendation from Haken’s Charlie Griffiths to nudge us in the right direction. We can say with certainty that Void would make our Top 40 Albums of 2020 if we re-published it today. The same goes for Hertfordshire prog metal innovators, Countless Skies.

Now signed to Listenable Records, the imagination and scope of Luna’s Call will only increase from here with two Bloodstock festivals under their belt and an upcoming appearance next to My Dying Bride and Rotting Christ at this year’s Manorfest. The band also release a cover of Megadeth’s 1985 classic, ‘Looking Down the Cross’, as an official single next Thursday with Charlie Griffith contributing a guitar solo. This is a quartet that strive to be on a live stage, yet their hard work and enthusiasm will continue to take them to Grimsby, Wigan, Middlesbrough and any other provincial town in England and the wider UK if they can showcase the magnificence of their latest album.

Though a favourite among musicians, Luna’s Call have far more to offer than technical proficiency and look poised to enter the ranks of the UK prog metal elite of Tesseract, Haken and Dvne with their next release. SBR caught up with vocalist and guitarist, Neil Purdy, to discuss the band’s unique brand of cosmic death metal and the background to one of the most original albums of the current decade.

Welcome to the idiosyncratic world of Luna’s Call…

Let’s start with last year’s epic Void album. This takes progressive death metal to new horizons. You could probably win some new fans who don’t normally listen to extreme metal, yet the music makes no compromises on the sinister transgressive side, either. What are the three strangest descriptions you’ve heard or read about your latest album?

First question and it’s already a difficult one to answer! I think we’ve been fairly lucky with Void and the people who have reviewed this album. There were only a small amount of reviews which stand out to us that have taken us by surprise, not that I will name names. The stranger ones tended to contradict themselves throughout, compare us with nu-metal bands or were written by someone who had little idea of what the traits of “progressive death metal” were. They themselves seemed surprised to find long songs on the album. 

However, as I said previously, we’re very gracious and thankful for all the really well written reviews we have received.

The boys in Luna’s Call seem very approachable. You’ve also agreed to headline the South Wales semi-final at the Metal 2 the Masses heats in June. Obviously, you’re signed to Listenable Records now and no longer qualify as a participant in this competition, so how does it feel to go there as a former champion and guest performer?

We’re really excited to head back over to Cardiff. It’s possibly one of the gigs we reminisce about most, in both good and bad ways. It always makes the biggest difference when the gig is well organised and discussed with the band prior to the event happening – great promoter, great venue and a great crowd. Unfortunately, we ran into horrendous traffic before we had even left our hometown, and the travelling only got worse from there, resulting in an eight-hour drive before we had even unloaded at the venue. However, the fact that we still hold that Cardiff gig as one of our most enjoyable shows should paint a picture as to how good the night was for us.

The listener will hear shades of Haken in your music. You also appear on the debut solo album from Haken guitarist, Charlie Griffiths, which comes out in June 2022. How did this guest appearance come to fruition?

This was all Charlie’s doing. We’ve been huge Haken fans for a long time, so when we got a message from the man himself saying that he really liked Void, it was kind of unbelievable at first. From there, he asked me if I would like to guest spot a few vocal parts on his solo album, so naturally I jumped at the chance.

The musicianship on Void is exquisite. Which of you come from an academic music background?

All four of us studied at Brighton Institute of Modern Music (BIMM). Bradley, Jamie and I were in a band together previously and moved to Brighton to attend BIMM. It wasn’t until we had all moved back to our hometown of Lincoln, met Liam and got him on board, that we found out he had also attended BIMM a year or so after us. 

Above: The band in rehearsals for their appearance at the 2021 Bloodstock Festival.

Let’s talk about the 13-minute epic from your latest record called ‘Solar Immolation’. Wow! What a tour de force! How did this song come into existence, and what did you have in mind when you started writing it?

I knew I wanted a longer “epic”, more concept-type piece on this album. Musically, it started out as three main ideas that I knew I wanted to knit together. Over the space of writing the rest of Void, it was the track I would keep coming back to and slowly sculpting. Cutting and adding different ideas until it started to form into what I had envisioned. 

Our love for films certainly helped with the themes on this song and the whole album. This song, in particular, was 1973’s classic, The Wickerman, mixed in with a little bit of Interstellar and Danny Boyle’s Sunshine

What are your thoughts on our observations of the songs from Void below?

Merced’s Footsteps – Strong vocal harmonies sparkle underneath an approaching night storm

Lyrically and musically this song was heavily influenced by the work of Wanda Díaz-Merced, a blind astronomer who turned data into audible sound. There are hidden messages within the riffs of this song, and it also gives birth to the musical motif played out in every track on this album. 

Signs – You might end up with something like this if Mastodon played death metal and asked Haken to collaborate on the project.

Both incredible bands who we all admire. That’s certainly a collaboration I would pay good money to see. 

Enceladus & The Life Inside – Cascading guitar arpeggios conjure images of snowflakes setting on the hillside. The shadows of Between the Buried and Me and Jethro Tull shine through the celestial magic.

This song certainly has a lot of personal meaning attached to it, but it’s really great to hear what images other people conjure up from the music and lyrics. Between the Buried and Me and Jethro Tull are obviously some of our favourites. Definitely more influential on the next track, ‘Locus’. This track, especially the last section, was heavily influenced by Goblin and their incredible soundtrack to the 1977 film, Suspiria

Locus – Shiny and bright prog rock at the beginning, like a wake-up call to get you out of bed. Vektor fans will love how it switches to a technical thrash metal assault.

This song, especially the vocals, were born from walking to and from dropping my car off for its MOT one early morning. I have no clue where the ideas came from which also made their way to inspire the lyric-writing for this track. We were big fans of the first few Vektor albums, but it’s interesting how I never thought of this song influenced or sounding like them. Kind of cool though. 

In Bile They Bathe – This is what Frank Zappa would sound like if he composed a death metal album before his passing in 1993.

This was our homage to the old school death metal bands we love but glad to hear our progressive influences shine through. 

Silverfish – Nostalgic chord formations allow you to gaze out of the window as you wash the dishes from your evening meal. Is that a rainbow in the distance? You smile as a tear trickles down your cheek.

I still have vivid memories of recording this song. Liam and myself recorded this live, very late, one evening/morning in my old home studio located in a very humid attic room. 

Fly Further Cosmonaut – How do you infuse death metal with classic prog rock? You can swing your hips to some sections of this song and slam to the other parts

Hip swinging wasn’t my initial aim when writing this song, but I’m glad to hear it moves people. There were a lot of influences coming from Camel and The Dillinger Escape Plan in this song. This and Merced’s Footsteps were the last songs completed for the album. In fact, they were still being written whilst we were recording the drums. 

Above: Frontman, Neil Purdy, is a graduate of the prestigious Brighton Institute of Modern Music (BIMM), along with the other three members of Luna’s Call.

Which of the following is the most important attribute to be a member of Luna’s Call and why?

  • A moustache
  • Grade 8 musician qualifications
  • A common love of football
  • Respect for the life and legacy of Chuck Schuldiner

It would have to be the utmost respect for Chuck Schuldiner of course! Followed very, very closely by the moustache. 

How often do you rehearse as a band in between writing new material?

We try to keep band practices regular regardless of what stage we are at. We’re still in the early stages of writing for the third album, throwing any and all riffs into the mix and seeing what starts the ball rolling. There are lots of times we’ll jam at practices, but it’s usually a case of taking riffs home and composing around those ideas where I start to feel a song solidifying. 

We think Void is your From Mars to Sirius moment. The parallels with Gojira don’t end there as they were also on Listenable records for their breakthrough record in 2005. What sacrifices are you ready to endure to reach their level of commercial and critical success over the next fifteen years?

What a compliment! I’m not sure how much we would change ourselves to gain success. The point of this band was to write music that we liked and that we would want to listen to. Alongside that was just hoping that other people might have the same musical tastes as us. We have discussed directions for the next album and have all agreed we don’t want it to be another repeat of Void, but I can’t really say where that change will take us yet. 

Describe that moment when you walked into a HMV music store of a major English city and saw your album on the shelf.

It was a really great and proud moment actually. It certainly brought back memories of spending a lot of time in HMV and other music stores as a young teenager, wondering whether I’ll ever have any of my music on the shelves there. As musicians, I’m positive there are other things we have achieved which should take precedence over having our music in HMV, but for nostalgic purposes it really ticked a box for me. 

Final question: It’s a common (and cynical) saying that “it’s not what you know – it’s who you know.” Give an example where you’ve advanced your band’s reach by the power of networking.

We’ve been really lucky to meet and work with some incredible people in the music industry, whether it be via networking online or at live events. As previously mentioned, examples of this are when people like Charlie Griffiths reach out to smaller bands like us or even playing gigs with people like Rich Shaw from Cradle of Filth. 

I would say our biggest “advance” was just by taking part in the Metal 2 the Masses competition. In the end, we didn’t even win our region’s competition, but, thankfully, we impressed the judges so much that they asked us to play the festival regardless. Unknown to us, during Bloodstock 2018, Russ Russell was choosing one performing band to offer free studio hours to. After the festival, he contacted us to say he’d like to work with us, and from there we put those hours towards him mixing and mastering the album. 

*** Luna’s Call self-released Void on 28 August 2020 before Listenable Records re-issued it on 30 April 2021. The band release a cover of Megadeth’s ‘Looking Down the Cross’ on Thursday 19 May 2022 via Listenable Records.