It’s been a tireless couple of years for experimental hip hop artist LUNV D. Since the drop of his debut album KVIZEN in 2018, the Houston-based Lunatic Diviner has been honing his joyfully anarchic voice through one genre-blended project after another. In the midst of the insanity that was 2020, he dropped two collaborative albums—the industrial trillwave masterpiece Leap Year with Lord Bile and the Dante Alighieri-inspired End of the World with Zøtboi and D-Seal—as well as a protest-themed solo EP aptly titled VMERICV that was dropped just as global unrest against police brutality was reaching a boiling point. And the goth punk rapper from the Third Coast is showing no signs of slowing down, kicking the new year off with Diviner—twelve tracks of defiance and existential angst that encapsulate an artist waving both middle fingers at genre norms and industry trends.
Diviner is an entirely self-produced passion project, evident in the prevalence of LUNV’s sword-sharpening sound signature as well as the heavy (and welcome) use of live instruments. The album is as much a showcase for his musical and production talent as it is a representation of his flow and lyrical range. Elements of emocore and pop-punk are seamlessly spliced with vaporwave and industrial beats. Each track is a barrage of FX laced with either acoustic string melodies or underground hardcore club distortion.
It would honestly be fair to consider Diviner a progressive rock album, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t every bit as much a rap album as well. “Cherub,” for instance, sounds like Playboi Carti rode Doc’s DeLorean back to the 1950s to front a rockabilly jam band, which—as much as that shouldn’t make sense—ends up working on every level. “Noir 3” is a jazz rock/rap gem functioning as the perfect closer to a track list full of musical Frankensteins such as the witch house/screamo trap song “Gold” and the hypnotic, mantra-heavy “Spellcasting 2.” In the end, what it amounts to is the work of an artist drawing equal amounts of influence from Mars Volta and Chris Travis, and the result is something truly special.
LUNV is an artist aware that we are the company we keep, and he brings his most trusted hitters into the ring with him on bangers like “DØN’T TVLK BVCK,” the most radio-friendly song in terms of catchiness and upbeat tone but juxtaposed with the meanest, nastiest bars coming from Zøtboi and depressive introspection from D-Seal. Lord Bile provides his morphine-soaked growls to the intro of “Eyez,” signing off with the line “Only thing that makes me smile is a dead cop,” a note which sets the tone and opens the floor for LUNV’s spastic energy to quickly escalate into full-chested screaming aggression. Throwing it back to the Eight Bracket days—a time several years ago in which LUNV D and several other Gulf Coast kids seemed to be on a similar trajectory of collectives such as Odd Future and RVIDXR KLVN—cloudwave singer/rapper BR4N reunites with the mystic pirate on “Down,” one of the more subdued songs on the album that brings the Lil Peep-esque vibes.
Thematically, the album is full of poetic musings regarding class struggle and existentialism, kicking off with “Divine Intervention,” a song that was recorded on the heels of LUNV being robbed by PayPal hackers. “I could care less about bank account, nothing on earth is forever / Music and all of my friends around, shine like diamonds under pressure” is a statement of purpose coming from an artist unconcerned with compromising authenticity and soul to fit into a mold. This is definitely music that will hit hardest with a niche audience rather than appeal to everyone, but that’s a major part of what makes it genuine art. That said, the most infectious hooks LUNV has written yet are also present here, most notably on the pop-punk anthem “Thinline” and on “Globe,” one of the album’s more mellow offerings that remains light-hearted and stoic while dripping dark rain cloud vibes: “Wish that I could spin the globe, eyes closed, pick a place and then just go, find a place to rest with all the lost souls.” The dynamic structure of each song is without a doubt due in part to the unique production, as this is an album that would be interesting to listen to even as an instrumental pack, but the ever-shifting cadence of LUNV’s delivery is what truly elevates the experience. By his own confession, the Lunatic Diviner is “striving for a voice that relates and destroys anything too exclusive,” and with Diviner he has achieved precisely that.