rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Introspection
02. To Kill or to Crave
03. What Sleeps In Your Mind
04. Phantom
05. Worship Your Path
06. Hopeless Abandonment
07. Valley of the Cursed
08. In Silence We Reign
09. Eclipse
10. Lost in a Soul

As long as there are exciting new bands to fly the flag, heavy metal will never get old. LUTHARO obviously subscribe to a similar view: the Canadians' self-released debut album is a primarily traditional metal record with bags of melody, shitloads of muscular power and large amounts of virtuoso musicianship. But it's also a ferociously contemporary affair, with shades of everything from progressive and symphonic metal grandeur to the heads-down clatter of the heaviest metalcore and the giddy, razor-wire histrionics of CHILDREN OF BODOM. The whole, seemingly intuitive caboodle is wrapped up in some truly memorable songs and blessed with a classy production that belies the band's DIY status.

An opening salvo that kicks in with such ferocity that you may spit your coffee across the room, "To Kill or to Crave" is as exhilarating an introduction to LUTHARO as one could wish for. Vicious, precise, and palpably detached from any of the usual pre-set subgenres, it's also pointedly metal to the core, with faint echoes of ARCH ENEMY in their early 21st century, Angela Gossow-led pomp, but with vocalist Krista Shipperbottom's effortless switching from sonorous clean vocals to bitter rasp as an extra layer of depth. Death metal rears its head again on the pitch-black bombast of "Phantom": almost a showcase for Shipperbottom's voice, it arrives adorned with ominous, hell-born brass and riffs of a palpably evil hue.

In contrast, "Worship Your Path" and "Hopeless Abandonment" are both succinct and briskly melodic power metal anthems, steeped in the melodic sensibilities of the old-school greats, but still with bloody knuckles and malicious intent. "Valley of the Cursed" and "Eclipse" are both straightforward rippers with symphonic trimmings, like a cracked mirror UNLEASH THE ARCHERS gone feral; "In Silence We Reign" is a rampaging onslaught of sharp-fanged metal heroism and spiraling lead breaks; epic closer "Lost in a Soul" aims for the dramatic jugular, erupting in a blur of blastbeats and delivering a grand melodic payoff to savor.

When you've got the talent, the songs and the intensity, making great heavy metal records soon becomes second nature. Pulling off a triumph like this at the first attempt, on the other hand, is the mark of a band with the right stuff and a very bright future. Bridging the gap between ancient and modern with admirable skill, LUTHARO have dropped one of this year's most vital debuts.

Author: Dom Lawson
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