Album Review – Gallia / Obscura (2022)

Enjoy this breathtaking album of Symphonic Metal infused with sheer epicness and storytelling, masterfully crafted by an up-and-coming four-headed outfit from Belgium.

Creating Symphonic Metal with an amount of epicness and storytelling that would fit a dark fantasy trilogy on the big screen, leading to what the band itself likes to call “Cinematic Metal”, Stevoort, Belgium-based four-headed outfit Gallia is unleashing upon humanity their first full-length opus, entitled Obscura, building on the story that was set in place by their 2019 EP Everflame, which was about the band’s fight against the dark. Produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Yarne Heylen at Project Zero Studio and displaying a beautiful artwork by Gogo Melone, Obscura tells the story of the band finishing their duty with the Everflame and returning to a life of freedom, and finding a different world than the one they left behind, presenting noticeable influences from Symphonic Metal bands such as Nightwish, Epica and Xandria while at the same time the theatricality of big composers such as Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman, all meticulously crafted by frontwoman Elyn Vandenwyngaert, guitarist Yannick Maris, bassist Laurens Vandebroek and drummer Ties Jehoul.

The clock is ticking in the intro Aperture, inviting us all to join Gallia in their cinematic, metallic journey to the sound of the heavy and melodic Return of Time, already starting in full force to the massive drums by Ties in a beyond thrilling exhibit of modern-day Symphonic Metal, with Elyn stealing the spotlight with her powerful voice. The fantastic Blackout Queen feels like the soundtrack to an epic movie, with Laurens kicking some serious ass armed with his thunderous bass while Yannick brings sheer Heavy Metal awesomeness to the sound through his sharp riffs, flowing into the whimsical Mirage, starting in an enfolding way to the sound of the piano before evolving into a very theatrical composition where Ties pounds his drums in a classy manner. Then an eerie, wicked intro suddenly morphs into another Metal Opera titled Reflection, showcasing the incendiary riffs by Yannick intertwined with a dark and beautiful vocal performance by Elyn; whereas Path of the Nomad is even more imposing, epic and dense than its predecessors, bringing forward an amazing job done by all band members and consequently taking the song to a whole new level of magic, with of course Elyn being flawless on vocals.

Then adding elements from Folk Metal to their core sonority, the band delivers the symphonic interlude Free Me, setting the stage for Spirit of the Sea, showcasing a catchy chorus (“Spirit of the Sea, hear my plea, hear my plea / The balance of my life lies in the hands of thee / You decide my destiny / Hear my plea, oh Spirit of the Sea / Let me return to land and tree / I call to you: let me be free”) and a mesmerizing pace and atmosphere; whereas guided by the classic, hammering drums by Ties the band offers our ears the also melodic and vibrant Chaos, with its background elements sounding absolutely majestic. In Euphoria we’re treated to poetic lyrics declaimed by Elyn (“The road is long / but our destiny is straight ahead / We march in faith and think of lands / that we have left”) amidst a multi-layered, melodic Symphonic Metal feast, and their second to last lecture in symphony and heavy music comes in the form of Tears of Gold, presenting over seven minutes of dark passages, rumbling bass lines and crushing riffs. Lastly, it’s time for Eryn to shine on vocals one final time in the stunning ballad New World, growing in intensity to the stylish riffs by Yannick until reaching a climatic, ethereal finale.

In summary, Obscura is one of those musical voyages that make Symphonic Metal so interesting and thrilling, thanks of course to the extreme focus and hard work invested in the making of the album by the talented members of Gallia, positioning them as one of the must-listen names of the current scene. Having said that, in order to support Elyn and the boys and fuel their inner fire to keep delivering first-class music to all of us, let’s all follow them on Facebook and on Instagram for news, tour dates and so on, subscribe to their official YouTube channel and stream more of their music on Spotify, and of course grab a copy of Obscura from the band’s own BandCamp page sooner than you can say “Cinematic Metal”. Heavy music cannot get any more theatrical than what Gallia have to offer us in their new album, leaving us eager for the next chapter in their promising path of heavy music infused with a huge dosage of fantasy.

Best moments of the album: Blackout Queen, Path of the Nomad and Chaos.

Worst moments of the album: Mirage.

Released in 2022 Independent

Track listing
1. Aperture 1:19
2. Return of Time 4:44
3. Blackout Queen 3:34
4. Mirage 4:42
5. Reflection 5:05
6. Path of the Nomad 4:13
7. Free Me 2:35
8. Spirit of the Sea 4:04
9. Chaos 4:21
10. Euphoria 4:13
11. Tears of Gold 7:32
12. New World 5:13

Band members
Elyn Vandenwyngaert – vocals
Yannick Maris – guitars
Laurens Vandebroek – bass
Ties Jehoul – drums

Album Review – Lutharo / Hiraeth (2021)

Behold the first full-length album by this fantastic Canadian Melodic Death Metal band, balancing hauntingly beautiful atmospheres with raw power and aggression.

Following the success of their 2020 EP Wings of Agony, Hamilton, Canada-based Melodic Death Metal outfit Lutharo (or Lutharö, if you prefer) is back into the battlefield with their first full-length opus, entitled Hiraeth, a Welsh word that has no direct English translation but that means an intense form of longing or nostalgia for a place long gone, or even an unaccountable homesickness for a place you have never visited. Recorded and mixed by Tyler Williams at Monolithic Productions, mastered by Lasse Lammert at LSD Studios, and displaying a classy artwork by Gogo Melone, Hiraeth launches into an epic exploration of the technical, musical and compositional abilities of frontwoman Krista Shipperbottom, guitarists Victor Bucur and John Raposo, bassist Chris Pacey and drummer Duval Gabraiel, balancing hauntingly beautiful atmospheres with raw power and aggression, and therefore, representing a huge step in the right direction for such talented Canadian band.

The sound of a beating heart ignites Lutharo’s metal machine in the intro Introspection, setting the stage for Victor and John to kick some ass with their riffs in the high-octane To Kill or to Crave, where Krista already showcases all her talent and fury through her sick, demented roars, sounding like a modern-day version of Angela Gossow during her unforgettable Arch Enemy years. Duval keeps hammering his drums frantically in What Sleeps in Your Mind, accompanied by the rumbling bass by Chris and the always sharp axes by the band’s guitar duo in a flawless display of contemporary Melodic Death Metal, followed by Phantom, slightly more symphonic than its predecessors but still venomous and heavy-as-hell, bringing forward another round of the band’s unrelenting music spearheaded by the she-wolf screams by Krista, and Worship Your Path, where the band’s stringed trio generates a massive atmosphere for their unstoppable frontwoman to shine once again, not to mention it’s epic NWOBHM vibe.

Lutharo Hiraeth Box Set

In Hopeless Abandonment the skillful Krista and the boys show no sign of slowing down, with Duval being on absolute fire with his crushing beats and fills, not to mention the always incendiary riffage and solos by Victor and John. Are you tired already? Because Krista is ready to slash your damned soul with her wicked roars in Valley of the Cursed, displaying a brutal performance by Duval on drums and, consequently, adding an extra touch of aggression to the band’s first-class musicality; whereas In Silence We Reign sounds and feels more epic than the rest of the album, a pounding tune that will work perfectly if played live with Duval making sure we break our necks headbanging nonstop while Krista gives a vocal lesson from start to finish. Their second to last explosion of Melodic Death Metal comes in the form of the breathtaking Eclipse, very intricate and progressive at times, with the guitars by Victor and John exhaling electricity and harmony, and last but not least, the band invests into a darker sonority in Lost in a Soul, putting a climatic ending to the album to the blast beats by Duval and the crisp riffage by Victor and John, until everything fades into an enfolding darkness.

As I like to say, it’s an absolute pleasure seeing bands like Lutharo taking their music to a whole new level and showing the entire world the quality, strength and diversity of the current Canadian metal scene, and with Hiraeth they not only more than succeeded in that, but they also placed themselves as one of the driving forces of the Canadian scene. Hence, don’t forget to give them a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, to subscribe to their YouTube channel (like I’ve already done) for more of their awesome music and beautiful videos, to stream all of their creations on Spotify, and of course to grab your copy of Hiraeth from their own BandCamp page or from their Big Cartel (where you can find a fantastic box set containing the Hiraeth digipack CD, a logo patch, a Hiraeth flag, a logo keychain and a signed photo), as well as from Apple Music. It will be interesting to see if Lutharo will be capable of delivering something more powerful and dynamic than Hiraeth in their future releases, but based on the talent of all musicians involved I wouldn’t be surprised if next year Krista and the boys stun us all once again with their undisputed metal music.

Best moments of the album: To Kill or to Crave, What Sleeps in Your Mind, Valley of the Cursed and Eclipse.

Worst moments of the album: Phantom.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing
1. Introspection 1:42
2. To Kill or to Crave 4:51
3. What Sleeps in Your Mind 5:19
4. Phantom 5:01
5. Worship Your Path 5:03
6. Hopeless Abandonment 4:23
7. Valley of the Cursed 4:31
8. In Silence We Reign 4:50
9. Eclipse 4:07
10. Lost in a Soul 7:03

Band members
Krista Shipperbottom – vocals
Victor Bucur – guitars, backing vocals
John Raposo – guitars
Chris Pacey – bass
Duval Gabraiel – drums

Guest musician
Elliot Vernon – orchestral arrangements