Although American metallers Sunrunner claim to be aiming for a more concise sound on their new album, Sacred Arts of Navigation, it’s still a helluva complex sound they’ve cooked up. Claiming influence from everything from ‘reggae on a sunny afternoon’, through Candlemass to Motown – and sounding like none of these things – they’ve actually stumbled across a sound that, to my failing memory, really sounds like nothing calling itself metal in 2022.

Their concept – ancient arts becoming the rock of survival in a post-technological world – is a nice nod to those Trigan Empire sort of Sci-fi comics of the sixties and seventies, but even here the parts don’t quite fit together, with the band seemingly happy to ask more questions than they answer. The acoustic instrumental, Acadia Morning Ride, for instance, sounds like something classic rock behemoths Mountain might have discarded in 1972 (and I mean that in a good way – it’s a cracking track), but while you muse about that, the band have moved on to the proto-Viking metal of Dragonship, another slice of instrumental whimsy that brings to mind fellow Americans Corsair. How these pieces all fit together is, I guess, up to the listener, and if you have a bit of time and patience to spare you’ll have a lot of fun figuring all this stuff out.

Me? On the whole I prefer my music a little more on the direct side but there’s no denying that Sunrunner have a style all their own  – and a curiously beguiling one at that. Recorded by Avatarium alumnus Marcus Jidell, a man who knows a thing or two about harnessing the power of the past, these guys have put together an album that, like the time-travelling theories it explores, seems to occupy every part of the last forty-odd years of heavy musics. Last Night In Tulum, which feature a woozy vocal from Bruno Neves and some classy, laid back lead axe from Joe Martignetti, reminds the listener of the glory days of Blue Öyster Cult, and is followed – quite naturally as it goes, despite every thought in the listener’s head pointing to it’s inherent ‘wrongness’ – by the fired up yet stripped back power metal assault of No Mess, No magic. In the world of Sunrunner it’s the nature of the disparate that is to be celebrated, and that’s a strangely refreshing thing to be confronted with.

As noted, this ain’t an easy ride, but my word it’s a worthwhile one. I suggest you take a punt on Sunrunner and prepare for some aural enlightement!

Sacred Arts of Navigation is out now.