Released: May 2018
Reviewed by: Benedict Roff-Marsh
If thinking of Celine Dion, it is easy to say nothing good comes out of Canada. But Canada is a musical dark horse. Without anyone noticing they have given us some wonderful acts like Anne Murray, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Rush, Saga, Triumph, Loverboy, Men Without Hats, Corey Heart, Skinny Puppy, k.d. lang… Need I go on? Ok I will, I was hatched in Windsor, Ont.
And Lycanthro comes from Ottawa, Ontario too. Canada is so easy to overlook as it is overshadowed by its neighbor America but this is some ways a good thing as it means that when Canadian talent does rise there tends to be something unique about it. Like you have to be extra special to make it in (or out) of Canada.
Lycanthro calls this an EP (extended play) no doubt because there are only four tracks – one per apocalyptic horseperson. But with a total playing time of a smidge over 33 mins they have about as much material here as most current releases so I’ll bend my “album only” rule.
Hopefully, you are listening and hear some fairly Classic Metal with overtones of the modern abstractions of Thrash, Power & Speed. All too often those extra genre tags seem to mean “no content past a few sonic gimmicks” but what I really like about this release is that the songs have not only an initial heft but far more importantly a depth to them.
The mixes allow the guitars to be clear but the vocals clearer. The lyrics have a story to them. It may be apocalyptic fantasy but underneath that veneer, I get the feeling there is an allegorical message. Who could ask for more?
To these guys, Metal isn’t just an excuse to make a god-awful noise but to express something. I think that is great. All music should do that and when most of it is formulaic (as so much Metal has become no matter how they may blat on about defending Metal spirit) then that makes the few who try to be better stand out. Winning for Lycanthro.
Positives: the expected powerful fat riffs, great screaming & ripping leads, lyrics to rouse the passions backed by drums to pound us into oblivion. Then there are unexpected synths to fatten the lamb, changes of pace that include Prog-like complexities & fancies, rounded out with quieter moments of light & shade. All these balance up really nicely in that theatrical way that great Metal should.
Negatives: why is this only an EP – another song or two would make this a bonafide long-player without challenging the theme? One or twice I don’t love the singer’s approach to high notes. High notes are a part of Metal and we do tend to get pedantic about them. I like Iron Will who front a singer who makes “Cronos” from Venom sound like Streisand so I am accepting but in just a few places the way the top notes are handled seems rough compared to the distinguished leanings of the rest of the material.
What do I think they sound like? Well, I guess I have to pony up with fellow Canadian Power Metallers Striker who play a tight game but don’t range as broadly. Candlemass because of the apocalyptic themes & variety; plus I can’t help but be reminded a little of Messiah Marcolin’s not quite hitting the more polished vocals of the original singer. Demon may be unexpected but there is a gruffness to both records whilst they play material that points to more polished vistas. Of course, if you are still hanging onto your Dio records for dear life then give Lycanthro a go.
I would love to hear these guys get together with a Producer who has a great sense of the theatrical (without making it sound flat but overblown like Dream Theater or Muse) who can help develop the band’s sound past its gruffer limits into really polished records with the highs & lows, darks & lights in an all-out, unashamedly bombastic celebration like King Diamond’s “The Eye” or Candlemass’ “Epcius Doomicus Metallicus”. Even something as fantabulous as Jeff Wayne’s “War of the Worlds”.
Oh and cudos to the band too for having a proper website with all their bases covered. I know a bit about each of the players, where and when I can find them and even a t-shirt I’d be delighted to wear.
Final thoughts: well I have really enjoyed this record. Every time I played it. If we didn’t have a policy of tossing out review material I’d sure keep this. Which means I may well do the right thing and buy it.
Matter of fact if the guys welded their two EPs together I’d be in no questions. The first EP has some mix issues (coarseness & missed balance) but it sounds like a great ride for the dedicated Metaller from the first part of the first track.
UPDATE: here’s the first video