Mater Larvarum

rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Ora Pro Nobis
02. Nightfall
03. Hollow
04. Fade Into The Dark
05. The Coven
06. Absolution
07. Moonless Night
08. Queen Of The Infernal Pantheon
09. Altar Of Bones
10. Run
11. Mater Larvarum

Born as a DEATH SS tribute act, but now several albums along a glittering but shadow-shrouded path of their own, DEATHLESS LEGACY should really be much better known. Their sound is rooted in heavy metal horror, of course, but also in the razor-sharp power metal anthemry of bands like POWERWOLF, the theatrical macabre of KING DIAMOND and, on songs like the organ-led "Nightfall", the more tongue-in-cheek end of the TYPE O NEGATIVE catalogue.

Vocalist and major driving force Steva is a force of a nature with a sublime grasp of how to sell these tales of cobwebbed vaults and venomous spirits, and ever since 2013's "Rise From The Grave", her band have steadily honed their compositional chops. The result is a marked improvement even on the holistic bluster of 2018's "Rituals Of Black Magic", as DEATHLESS LEGACY audibly twist symphonic metal to their own nefarious ends, while never forgetting to deliver a huge, fists-in-the-air chorus.

"Mater Larvarum" is the Italians' fifth full-length album and it hits a sweet spot that only this band have access to right now. A perfect example of their greatness, "Hollow" has a radio-friendly heart, but both feet planted in heavy metal's atavistic graveyard. Steva sings it as if she's at the bleak crescendo of some foul, hope-bereft musical. The end result is both uplifting and deliciously off-kilter. Similarly, "Fade Into The Dark" could pass for a fairly standard symphonic metal song, were it not for multiple layers of melody, embellishment and ghoulish atmosphere. Rocketing along at a faster pace on "The Coven", DEATHLESS LEGACY reveal ruggedness and a spiky edge, with Steva hurling out gnarled lyrical hooks with real delight, and faint echoes of electro-industrial goth rock seeping through the barrage of pipe organs and grimy riffs. "Moonless Night", previously released as a single, offers the perfect symbiosis of CRADLE OF FILTH and refined, unashamedly poppy FM rock; "Altar Of Bones" is as imposing and creepy as its title suggests.

Saving the best until last, the closing title track paints DEATHLESS LEGACY as grand, progressive architects of a new strain of symphonic metal (albeit one they have been refining for a decade). Touched by horror's hand and emboldened by a very Italian sense of the dramatic, this ludicrously underrated band have made their best album to date, and one that deserves to propel them toward bigger stages and the full, visual realisation of their grim but opulent vision. It'll be Halloween again soon enough. Don't miss out.

Author: Dom Lawson
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