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

The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2020

“Rock stars come and go. Musicians play until they die.” – Eddie Van Halen

What can I say about the year of 2020? No words can describe all the pain, fear, anxiety, losses and struggles we all had to endure during what’s going to be sadly remembered as the worst year of our modern times. We saw the rise of coronavirus, which had a huge negative impact on pretty much everything and everyone we know, with millions of hardworking people unfortunately losing their jobs, concerts being cancelled, restaurants and other businesses being shut down, people getting stuck in their homes and having to deal with psychological issues like depression, and more important than that, with countless lives, and in some cases people really close to us, people we love, losing their battle against such horrible disease. We also witnessed a gut-wrenching surge in racism against black people all over the world, and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement in the never-ending fight for freedom and justice, trying to make our world a better place for everyone. And last but not least, we lost so many iconic figures it’s hard to list everyone without crying a little. We lost sports titans such as Kobe Bryant, Diego Maradona and Paolo Rossi, amazing, talented actors and actresses including our beloved “Black Panther” Chadwick Boseman, the original “Darth Vader” David Prowse and the unstoppable Mad Max’s villain “Immortal Joe” Hugh Keays-Byrne, and music geniuses like Rush’s unparalleled Neil Peart and one of the best and most revolutionary guitarists of all time, the one and only Eddie Van Halen. May their souls rest in peace.

However, although we might be living such difficult and stressful times, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel with the development of effective vaccines that will certainly put our society back on track sooner than later, giving us all some hope and pointing to a much better future for all of us. In the meantime, I guess one thing that we metalheads have been doing (and will always do) throughout such shitty year is using the music we love to face all of our problems and fears with our heads and horns high in the sky, never giving up nor giving in. Having said that, I’ll leave you with The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2020, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums, showing to us all that it doesn’t matter what happens with the world, heavy music will always stand strong. From the most primeval form of Black Metal to fast and electrifying Power Metal, from a beyond amazing soaring numbers of women kicking ass in an array of styles such as Doom, Symphonic and Death Metal to the most underground Atmospheric Black Metal entities you can think of, from our good old Rock N’ Roll to modern-day Alternative Metal, music prevailed above darkness, pain and hate, and that’s how it will be forever and ever. Enjoy our list of top metal albums for this (terrible) year that’s coming to an end, and let’s keep raising our horns and banging our heads together in 2021!

1. Primal Fear – Metal Commando (REVIEW)
Join Primal Fear’s undisputed rock brigade and become a true metal commando to the sound of their breathtaking new album.
Best song of the album: Infinity

2. Trivium – What The Dead Men Say (REVIEW)
It’s time to listen to what these four (un)dead men from Orlando, Florida have to say in their thrilling new opus.
Best song of the album: Amongst the Shadows & the Stones

3. Testament – Titans Of Creation (REVIEW)
The titans of Thrash Metal are back in action with another technical, melodic and absolutely pulverizing album of extreme music.
Best song of the album: Night of the Witch

4. Lamb of God – Lamb of God (REVIEW)
Re-energized and unrelenting, Lamb of God are finally back after five years with their pulverizing eighth studio album.
Best song of the album: Gears

5. Sepultura – Quadra (REVIEW)
A sensational concept album based on Quadrivium embraced by a fusion of Thrash, Groove and Progressive Metal.
Best song of the album: Guardians of Earth

6. Onslaught – Generation Antichrist (REVIEW)
These UK veterans are ready to set the world on fire once again with one of the most ferocious Thrash Metal albums of the year.
Best song of the album: Religiousuicide

7. Ecclesia – De Ecclesiæ Universalis (REVIEW)
This army of French inquisitors stands strong on their crusade against every doom heretic with their incendiary debut album.
Best song of the album: Antichristus

8. Eleine – Dancing In Hell (REVIEW)
Time for us all to dance in the fires of hell to the sound of the striking new opus by this unstoppable Swedish Symphonic Metal group.
Best song of the album: Where Your Rotting Corpse Lie (W.Y.R.C.L.)

9. Grave Digger – Fields of Blood (REVIEW)
Grave Digger celebrate 40 years of their undisputed Heavy Metal on a journey back to the vastness of the Scottish Highlands.
Best song of the album: Freedom

10. Konvent – Puritan Masochism (REVIEW)
A dark, primeval and stunning fusion of Death and Doom Metal masterfully crafted by four unrelenting women hailing from Denmark.
Best song of the album: Puritan Masochism

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Genus Ordinis Dei – Glare of Deliverance (REVIEW)
12. Paradise Lost – Obsidian (REVIEW)
13. Axel Rudi Pell – Sign of the Times (REVIEW)
14. Raventale – Planetarium II (REVIEW)
15. Hellsmoke – 2020 (REVIEW)
16. My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion (REVIEW)
17. Burning Witches – Dance with the Devil (REVIEW)
18. Naglfar – Cerecloth (REVIEW)
19. Scarlet Aura – Stormbreaker (REVIEW)
20. Thundermother – Heat Wave (REVIEW)

And how about we also pay a tribute to the bands that released short and sweet albums that condensed pretty much the same amount of electricity, rage and intricacy than any of the full-length albums from the list above? That’s why we’re also going to provide you as usual our Top 10 EP’s of 2020 for you to see that size doesn’t really matter.

1. Front – Antichrist Militia (REVIEW)
2. Malfested – Shallow Graves (REVIEW)
3. Tøronto – Under Siege (REVIEW)
4. Soul Dissolution – Winter Contemplations (REVIEW)
5. Lutharö – Wings of Agony (REVIEW)
6. Póstuma – Moralis (REVIEW)
7. Black Sun – Silent Enemy (REVIEW)
8. MĀRA – Self​-​Destruct. Survive. Thrive! (REVIEW)
9. Serocs – Vore (REVIEW)
10. Invocation – Attunement to Death (REVIEW)

Do you agree with our list? What are your top 10 albums of 2020? Also, don’t forget to tune in every Tuesday at 10pm BRT on Rádio Coringão to enjoy the best of classic and underground metal with Jorge Diaz and his Timão Metal, and every Thursday at 8pm UTC+2 on Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio for the best of underground metal with The Headbanging Moose Show! And if you lost some or most of our special editions of The Headbanging Moose Show, including our Top 20 Underground Albums of 2020 – Parts I and II, go to our Mixcloud page and there you have hours and hours of the best of the independent scene, sounds good?

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2021!

And before we go, let’s bang our heads one last time in 2020 with a classic Christmas song by an amazing Romanian band that loves Heavy Metal from the bottom of their hearts, pointing to much better times ahead for all of us! Enjoy!

Album Review – Lutharö / Wings of Agony EP (2020)

Bringing a fresh take on Heavy Metal to listeners around the world, this up-and-coming Canadian band returns with a darker yet still very melodic sound in their brand new (and excellent) EP.

Founded in 2014 under the name Incarnadine in Hamilton, a Canadian port city on the western tip of Lake Ontario, the Melodic Heavy/Death Metal powerhouse now known as Lutharö aims at bringing a fresh take on Heavy Metal to listeners around the world with their unique and diverse sound loaded with catchy riffs, blazing solos and vocals ranging from vicious growls to clean passages that will send a chill down your spine, being therefore highly recommended for fans of the music by iconic bands like Arch Enemy, Unleash the Archers, Amon Amarth and Behemoth. Over the years, Lutharö have grown into their distinctive sound, emerging with a heavy and dark formula that gets fans moving, culminating in 2018 with the release of their debut EP Unleash The Beast and now in 2020 with the release of their sophomore opus Wings of Agony.

Stepping out of their comfort zone for their new album, the Canadian quintet comprised of Krista Shipperbottom on vocals, Victor Bucur and John Raposo on the guitars, Chris Pacey on bass and Duval Gabraiel on drums (although the drums in the EP were recorded by session musician Cale Costello) promises to be more innovative and imaginative than in Unleash The Beast, being the perfect introduction to the new era of Lutharö that, albeit darker than before, still sounds and feels very melodic and embodies the same amount of energy their fans have learned to enjoy. Featuring a stylish cover art designed by Romanian artist Costin Chioreanu (twilight13media.com), Wings of Agony will bring to your metallic ears 25 minutes of classic yet at the same time modern metal music, positioning Krista and the boys as one of the most promising and interesting names of the current Canadian underground scene.

Ominous, ethereal sounds kick off the opening track Barren, before the band’s guitar duo Victor and John start slashing their strings beautifully and Krista begins blasting her high-pitched, enraged screams, bringing forward elements from a myriad of styles such as Thrash, Death and even Black Metal. Needless to say, the EP couldn’t have started in a better way, and things get even better in Diamond Back, leaning towards the Melodic Death Metal played by some of their biggest influences such as Arch Enemy and The Agonist. The intricate and flammable beats by Cale are effectively complemented by the crisp riffs fired by both guitars, all embraced by another brutal performance by Krista with both her strident clean vocals and she-wolf roars. And a touch of epicness spices up the intro to the also high-octane Blood Lightning, where the quintet puts the pedal to the metal in a hybrid between classic Thrash Metal and modern-day Melodic Heavy Metal, also featuring awesome guitar solos delivered by Victor as the icing on the cake.

Will to Survive is a brilliant headbanging tune by Lutharö where the guitars sound furious just the way we like it in extreme music, while Chris’ rumbling bass and Cale’s frantic beats keep the atmosphere dense and thunderous from start to finish. In addition, Krista is once again superb on vocals, and in my humble opinion this is a beautiful and exciting path I would love to see Lutharö follow in their future releases. Last but not least, closing the EP we have the title-track Wings of Agony, more melodic and modernized than its predecessors, offering the listener another feast of razor-edged riffs, blast beats and menacing bass punches, not to mention the song’s catchy chorus powerfully declaimed by Krista (“Go on and wake from this sleep / Let distant light unbind your wings / Go on and soar / Forever more / Into a journey of pain”), with the music flowing into a dark and serene ending.

When I saw Lutharö live for the very first (and so far the only) time in 2018 opening for the almighty Canadian metal heroes Striker and Unleash The Archers here in Toronto, I instantly knew I was witnessing the rise of a future beast of Canadian metal, with Wings of Agony, which is available from the band’s own BandCamp page (and soon from other locations and platforms), cementing their name in the local scene. Hence, if you want to know more about Lutharö and listen to more of their music, simply follow them on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and stream their previous and new releases on Spotify  as much as you want. Krista and her henchmen are undeniably talented, crazy for metal music and extremely focused on what they do, spreading their wings all over Canada and soon the world with their breathtaking music for our total delight.

Best moments of the album: Diamond Back and Will to Survive.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Barren 5:21
2. Diamond Back 4:31
3. Blood Lightning 4:41
4. Will to Survive 5:09
5. Wings of Agony 6:02

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

Guest musician
Cale Costello – drums (session)

*Drums recorded by Cale Costello.

Concert Review – Striker & Unleash The Archers (The Velvet Underground, Toronto, ON, 10/01/2018)

Do you want to know how to easily brave a cold and rainy Monday in Toronto? Striker and Unleash The Archers had the perfect recipe for that last night when they took our beloved city by storm.

OPENING ACT: Lutharö

Not only last night in Toronto was cold and rainy, but it was also a Monday, the day of the week all of us usually feel like doing absolutely nothing. However, when that same Monday offers us a night of pure Canadian Metal with the amazing bands Lutharö, Striker and Unleash The Archers at the small and very cozy The Velvet Underground, why not facing that shitty weather (I know it could have been a lot worse like what they’re having in Calgary now, but it’s still shitty) to meet some friends, enjoy a few beers and bang our fuckin’ heads to the best metal music you’ll find in the entire country? That, my friends, is the recipe for a packed (and hot) concert on what was supposed to be another boring Monday night, as simple as that.

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

The first band of the night was Hamilton-based female-fronted squad LUTHARÖ, playing an extremely fun, crisp and pleasant fusion of 80’s Heavy Metal with modern-day Melodic Death Metal the likes of The Agonist and Arch Enemy. Spearheaded by the talented she-wolf Krista Shipperbottom, whose vocal style, hair and looks remind me of The Agonist’s stunning frontwoman Vicky Psarakis, the band delivered a solid performance for the fans at the venue who probably had zero knowledge of the band before the concert. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the names of all songs they played last night, but I do remember the names of my two favorite ones, I of the Axe and their newborn tune Unleash the Beast, and in both cases all band members kicked some serious ass. Having said that, don’t waste your time and go check their music out on YouTube and on BandCamp, and keep an eye on their Facebook page for news and tour dates, because you never know when Krista and her henchmen will mercilessly attack your hometown.

Band members
Krista Shipperbottom – lead vocals
Victor Bucur – lead guitars, backing vocals
John Raposo – guitar
Ruslan Lypovsky – bass
Cory Hofing – drums 

STRIKER

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

After a short break, where fans either went to the washroom, got another beer or checked out the merch from the bands, it was time for my favorite Canadian band of the past decade to show everyone at the venue that Canada is indeed a land of first-class Heavy Metal. When award-winning Edmonto-based act STRIKER hit the stage, we all knew it was going to be a heavy, melodic and utterly entertaining performance, kicking things off with the opening track from their 2016 album Stand in the Fire, the electrifying Phoenix Lights, followed by two of my favorite tracks from their latest albums, Born to Lose, from their 2017 self-titled masterpiece Striker, and Heart of Lies, from their brand new opus Play To Win (to be officially released later this month). Needless to say, after such action-packed start, the game was already won by Striker.

And the quintet comprised of frontman Dan Cleary (what a voice, ladies and gentlemen!), guitarists Tim Brown and Chris Segger, bassist William Wallace and drummer Adam Brown kept blasting their fusion of old school Heavy Metal and Hard rock with contemporary Power Metal without giving a single second for us to breathe, impressing us all with their level of energy, professionalism and passion for what they do, with incendiary songs like Former Glory and Pass Me By (both from their 2017 self-titled album), and especially the high-octane Full Speed or No Speed (from their 2010 album Eyes in the Night) and the metal hymn Fight for Your Life (from their 2012 album Armed to the Teeth), representing to perfection what the music by Striker is all about. At a given moment of the show, when Dan was introducing us to the next song to be played (I don’t remember which one he was talking about, but it was of course amazing), he asked the crowd if there were any fans in the house of the music by metal giants like Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Anvil, complementing his joke by saying they were not going to play any of that, but “some old school Striker shit”. Well, who said we were expecting them to play any cover songs? When the band in question is a fantastic one like Striker, we want to listen to their own songs, and I can’t wait to do that again when they return to Toronto in a not-so-distant future.

Setlist
Phoenix Lights
Born to Lose
Heart of Lies
Lethal Force
Crossroads
Former Glory
Too Late
Out for Blood
Pass Me By
Locked In
Full Speed or No Speed
The White Knight
Fight for Your Life

Band members
Dan Cleary – lead vocals
Tim Brown – lead and rhythm guitar
Chris Segger – lead and rhythm guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

UNLEASH THE ARCHERS

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

I was so entertained and electrified by the concert by Striker that I completely lost track of time, not knowing exactly what time their concert ended and what time the main attraction of the night, the unstoppable Vancouver-based metal warriors known as UNLEASH THE ARCHERS, hit the stage at The Velvet Underground. And keep in mind it was a Monday night, which means most people would be checking their watches all the time counting every minute to go home. Just like Striker delivered a flawless performance, the band led by the warrior princess Brittney Slayes was absolutely on fire on stage from start to finish, inspiring the fans to ignite some mosh pits (all pretty good except for a silly moron with a moustache that was either too drunk, too high or way too stupid to respect everyone else, to the point Brittney had to call his attention to stop acting like a jerk), to do some crowd surfing, to raise our fists in the air and to sing along every single song with them.

Still promoting their 2017 opus Apex, the quintet formed by the skillful, humble and sympathetic Brittney Slayes on vocals (sending hearts with her hands to the fans during the entire show), Grant Truesdell on the guitar, Andrew Kingsley on the  guitar and harsh growls, newcomer Nick Miller on bass and Scott Buchanan on drums returned to the city after three long years, proving how hard it is to travel and tour inside Canada, but that excruciating wait was definitely worth it. Firing the most awesome songs from Apex such as Awakening, The Matriarch and Cleanse the Bloodlines, mixed with battle hymns from their previous albums like Time Stands Still, Tonight We Ride and my favorite of all, Test Your Metal, from their 2015 opus Time Stands Still, Unleash The Archers fully captivated our senses during their whole concert, also showing their awe for the amount of fans that gathered at the venue on a rainy Monday night (and yes, I have to repeat that again) to celebrate metal with them (and to sing A-Ha’s Take On Me which was coming out of the speakers after all was said and done).

Today is Tuesday, most of us might have been really tired the entire day and probably bored at work (as Brittney herself said, fuck work!), but happy to have witnessed a true feast of the best Heavy Metal made in Canada you can think of. As already mentioned, let’s hope none of the bands take too long to return to the city, and that they play at a bigger venue so that a lot more metal maniacs from Toronto and from other parts of the province are able to enjoy the lesson in heavy music given by such distinct bands, even if they play on a snowy Monday night in the middle of the winter, with chilling temperatures and bitterly cold winds. Do you think you have what it takes to ride with Striker and Unleash The Archers under such adverse conditions? If you love metal music as much as I do, I’m sure you’ll be there with us.

Setlist
Intro
Awakening
The Matriarch
Cleanse the Bloodlines
Test Your Metal
Dreamcrusher
Time Stands Still
General of the Dark Army
Tonight We Ride

Encore:
Apex

Band members
Brittney Slayes – vocals
Grant Truesdell – guitar
Andrew Kingsley –  guitar, harsh growls
Nick Miller – bass
Scott Buchanan – drums

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