Chasing Euphoria

It’s a dramatic soundtrack that introduces the listener to the new album Chasing Euphoriafrom the Canadian quartet LUTHARO whose brand of melodic metal is spearheaded by singer Krista Shipperbottom. The follow up to 2021’s Hiraeth, this is an album that combines majestic, sweeping movements with savage aggression in a curled fist of power.

After Gates Of Enchantment opens the way, the ferocity of first song Reaper’s Call is something of a hammer shock. Vicious, snarling riffs blend with more expansive, semi-operatic elements which provide an aural overload from start to finish. It’s an ideal opener, fast-paced and bringing elements of pure thrash metal alongside the wider, more expansive style.

Ruthless Bloodline follows, with Shipperbottom’s screaming roars a total contrast to her more melodic tones which pepper the track. It’s melodic death metal in the style of Trivium that is in evidence in this song, a real powerhouse that thunders along. The fire of Shipperbottom’s screams is so reminiscent of a female Matt Heafy that one must take several seconds to readjust. But LUTHARO are more than just a female screamer, with the musical assault led by the blistering shred of lead guitarist Victor Bucur, the other founding member alongside Shipperbottom. They are joined by the anchoring rhythm section of drummer Cory Hofing and bassist Chris Pacey, who combine in a solid unit.

It’s not all frenetic chaos though. There’s a hybrid pop sensibility to Time To Rise, which features some of my least favourite vocals on the album. Sadly, the saccharine cleans are rather unpalatable, although the song itself rattles along at pace. It’s the elements of modern metal which I always struggle with, and this is no exception. The strings that complement Pacey’s throbbing bass lines are a curiosity, neither at home nor particularly displaced. It’s not the best song amongst the more vibrant and pulsating tracks that are available.

In parts, one is a little confused with LUTHARO’S style. Not quite melodic death metal in the style of Arch Enemy, nor the more modern flourish of Spiritbox, there’s parts of each in equal measure. It leads to an album that is both intriguing and somewhat challenging. The screaming vocals work much better in many parts, whilst the clean singing varies in quality. Whereas they don’t tick any of my boxes on Time To Rise, they are much better in other songs, such as the piledriving Born To Ride, which features more impressive fretboard work from Bucur, who is surely the start of this release.

LUTHARO tie in a bit of old school style on the intro to Bonded To The Blade, which then sees a dynamic and explosive style take over. It’s a rather disappointing song that follows, and although one might argue that the constant flip flop between screaming roars and sugar-coated clean singing is a feature of many bands these days, I’d love to see LUTHARO have the confidence to stick to one style for a song or two, just to avoid the rather formulaic pattern that emerges. The same delivery follows on the title track, although this has a little more heft and is a more memorable track, with heavy, driving riffs.

What LUTHARO do well is find the right blend of powerful rage and melody, which gives each track here plenty of room to expand. It also allows Bucur ample room to show case his fretwork, whilst also featuring the locked in work of Hofing and Pacey, often unrecognised by so vital to the band.

Although they stick to a four-five-minute song structure, the last song on the album does at least bring variation in the form of the seven-minute Freedom Of The Night. It’s a track that contains the similar patterns heard elsewhere within the album, but it has more scope and capacity to expand, even encapsulating a little bit of Iron Maiden towards the finish. The drumming is intense, Hofing giving the kit a real battering, whilst the shimmering banks of riffage certainly enhance the song’s vibrant demeanour. It’s a fine end to an album that is a little unbalanced in places, but which holds several gems worth a listen. A record that is well worth taking a chance on, especially if your take on modern metal includes some relatively old school influences.

Paul Hutchings