I remember being unimpressed with LUPARA's performance at Minneapolis Mayhem II, which makes my generally favorable impression of the band's debut album even more surprising. Featuring guitarist Jeremy Wagner, formerly of BROKEN HOPE, LUPARA's debut album is a hate-filled, slab of solid American extreme metal with a death metal bent (i.e., not exactly death metal) and boot-stomping mentality.Oddly enough, it is the guitar tone that immediately comes to mind when I think about the band's self-titled debut. The riffs are fat, dark, and just plain evil as hell. When guitarist Tom Brandner's solos rise up from the abyss, the result is deliciously sick. Scott Creekmore's drumming is rather thunderous as well and when those double-bass parts kick in it's like being in the middle of a friggin' earthquake. As for the vocals, Noa Brady's style is gruff (but not growling) and intelligible, and death growls are used frequently to provide an effective contrast. That leaves the actual songwriting, which is consistently fair to good across the board; none of it is of the soft and cuddly variety. Most of the tunes utilize speed bursts that turn to mid-tempo chug and back again. "Four Leaves War" is one of the better examples, the track speeding out of the gate before veering off into an ungodly mid-paced crunch. In the case of "No Pity on the Ants", the emphasis is on steamroller crunch that speeds up during the spiraling guitar solo. "As the Darkness Surrounds" is downright furious and features the memorable growl-shout of "from your death bed flies shall rise" during one particularly gnarly slow and chugging section. There is no shortness of nastiness on any of the tracks, but the chorus of "The Ashes in Your Mouth" is guaranteed to put an ugly snarl on your face. There isn't much else to say song-wise, as things do not change a great deal on the remaining tracks. In fact, the tunes begin to bleed together during the last quarter of the album and things begin to drag ever so slightly. That the songwriting doesn't vary a whole hell of a lot doesn't matter much though, as the violence is unrelenting and pretty damn convincing. The album is certainly better than average, just not mind-blowing. LUPARA may not be at the forefront of some new U.S. metal movement, but those with a hankerin' for tough guy stomp and no-holds-barred brutality should get some enjoyment out of this one.
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