Chiptune is an often misunderstood genre. What can at first be mistaken for a nostalgia-filled trip back to when your biggest worries were Dr Wily and your daily custard intake often belies the true hypnotic and immersive sounds that were so impressionable on you back during the custard years – not because you were young, but because it was good. Damn good. And it’s within this realm where the third release from Danimal Cannon, the result of a hard lock crash between a guitar and a 1989 Nintendo Game Boy, resides.
The mostly instrumental tracks are looping hypnotic visions into a retro-tinged future, as if Bionic Commando was soundtracked by The Algorithm. It’s an iconoclastic union, retro beeps and chirps running in tandem with fresh tech metal assaults; occasionally combining and switching just to place you off-guard. The album is a bizarrely accessible showcase of songcraft rather than technical showboating, with the looping swirls of music maintaining an inherent catchiness that is infectious. This is helped immensely by a bizarre sense of humour that pervades the entire album… almost as if the chirpy chip tune is the Laurel to the tech metal’s Hardy.
The songs themselves show a great atom smashing of influences, with ‘Behemoth’ seemingly being as much a child of Ziltoid as Super Mario Bros 3’s Airship levels, whilst the dance-influenced ‘Long Live The New Fresh’ sees Hatsune Miku come to the club with a power metal guitar. Perhaps strangest of all is track ‘Surveillance’ that channels the 90s industrial scene of Ministy, NIN and White Zombie with vocals to match. It’s these hidden influences, ones that stretch far and wide, that gives Lunaria its distinctive personality. What could easily have sounded like a mess if not handled carefully, instead all seems strangely cognitive. The loops of 8-bit chirps are hypnotic and unending, almost seeming like your character as the levels transition. It all comes down to the atmosphere that builds up to create little 8-bit worlds that may be hectic and violent, but retain the soothing feeling of the warm glow of a cathode ray tube.
There are some caveats, however, that are worth mentioning. Namely, at nearly 55 minutes the album is an investment. It’s not quite immediate how clever it is, and so the first listen is by far the hardest and it only starts to unlock itself after you’ve become properly accustomed after a few listens. But when it hits, it’s joyous. It’s very clear that Danimal Cannon, or Daniel Behrens, comes from two separate worlds that rarely cross – but what is important is that he shares a passion for both of them. It’s clear to see the echoes of influence laced within, but they come from such distinctly different worlds that the sound becomes original. Through abusing the limitations of a Game Boy sound chip he’s created a sound that is expansive and characterful, but always accessible to the degree where you’ll forget just how clever it is. All this creates an end product that has some dark passages smothered in a whole that is so playful and ingenious you can’t help but smile. For fans of instrumental metal that are willing to put the time in to explore wider influences and originality – Danimal Cannon comes highly recommended.