Lycanthro – Mark of the Wolf (Alone Records)

Monday, 5th July 2021
Rating: 8.5/10

Charting progress can be subjective, especially when it comes to music. Fortunate to hear this Canadian power metal group Lycanthro right away from their self-titled demo in 2017 into the follow-up Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse EP the next year, the steady improvement in all aspects of performance, songwriting, and abilities makes anticipation that much stronger going into Mark of the Wolf. Signing with Greek label Alone Records, this full-length contains a mixture of songs reaching back into those early archives to get a proper recording along with newer material to see where these musicians stand.

Choosing to open the record with one of those older songs for “Crucible”, the band throws all aspects of their sound at you full force: catchy twin guitar melodies, a solemn, clean intro, powerful main riff hooks, and a potent, melodic vocal foundation with killer upper falsetto/scream nuances in all the significant spots. The songwriting contains plenty of diversity, often shifting moods from epic power to a more uplifting nature from part to part, taking the listener on a journey to another universe. The progressive tempos and vocal harmonies within “Enchantress” as mesmerizing as the diversity contained in this song, the clean passages against the electricity another dynamic earworm proving to be very effective for long term retention. While obviously using power metal as the main template for their style, Lycanthro incorporate a mixture of outlooks that can be like Iced Earth/Metallica in a driving sense one moment, then European and expansive for “Fallen Angels Prayer” where guest flute, violin, and Ottawa Capital Chamber Choir support give the listener more Avantasia, Ayeron, or Therion textures.

By the time the record concludes with “Evangelion”, it’s evident that the biggest improvement has been made on the vocal front with guitarist James Delbridge. He has taken the time to work on his range, melodies and pitch control to place himself in the proper situations that benefit the music at hand – the closing number perfect in that Dio/Sabbath-era context, taking risks with his emotional resonance for the verses into a simple yet supremely effective chorus that just sticks in the cranium for weeks on end. Favorites include the more traditional, highway ready title track (think Judas Priest/Primal Fear here) as well as the aforementioned “Evangelion”. Seeking out mixing help from Jason Jaknunas and mastering from Jack Kosto (Seven Spires) allows the musical quality to shine, delivering the best production to date for the group. Ottawa, Canada may not be well-known for its power metal, but with Mark of the Wolf this scribe believes Lycanthro will vault up the scene in terms of a fine debut album, a promising lift to those that love all aspects of power metal.

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