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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.