Luthor is the name of a very interesting project begun by Australian Dean Burgess as his answer to a deteriorating metal genre. A veteran of several metal "bar bands", Dean collected a talented assortment of musicians (Evan Harris on bass, Wayne Dwyer on keyboards, drums and guitars) and proceeded to record what I feel is one of the best independent releases of 2004 - Skyweaver. The album reaches back in time to draw forth the best from the heyday of heavy metal and fuses those elements with a contemporary style of power metal similar to bands such as Jag Panzer and Iced Earth.
Luthor turns up the heat right from the start with the excellent title track. Jackhammer riffs give way to eccentric refrains, staunchly supported by Dwyer's furious skin pounding. Immediately attention is drawn to Dean's vocal performance, particularly during the choruses. He sings primarily in a crisp, moderate falsetto that doesn't quite reach a Halford-esque range but is nonetheless impressive. His vocal melodies are simply fantastic, adding significant depth to the songs and exhibiting complete harmony with the guitar leads. The song has hints of old-time melodic metal, but remains very contemporary in style - even having a bit of a progressive tint. My favorite track of the album, "Mother Sea", has also cemented itself as one of my all-time favorite melodic metal songs. I simply cannot hear this track too many times. Dean's '80s metal influences are quite evident here, with a theme riff that is fairly straightforward but catchy as hell. Sounding just a touch like Tony Lewis (The Outfield), Dean delivers his best vocal performance of the album and, aided by just the right amount of reverb, creates some fantastic vocal hooks and melodies. Toss in a classic solo and Luthor has its ace. Another highlight among highlights is "Take", with its tribal intro & outro and ecologically conscious lyrics. A mid-paced track carried by a crunchy riff, Deans' vocals once again are a focal point and crucial to making this a memorable tune. As in every other track on Skyweaver, Dean lays down an admirable solo that is distinctive but at the same time compliments the mood of the song. The list of noteworthy elements to be found on the album go on and on, such as the menacing vocals of "Always" and the doomy riffs of "Evil Eye", but to mention all of them would leave no surprises for those of you who seek out this fantastic album.
As the main songwriter, Dean slows things up in a couple of places on the album with "Rain" and "Tears". The former track, somewhat of a power ballad, is pretty standard fare as far as such songs go but is executed well. It's here, though, that I found Dean's otherwise engaging voice sounding a bit flat. A crisp, extensive guitar solo more than makes up for any vocal stumbles, however. "Tears", an acoustic ballad, closes out Skyweaver in a classy way. You can feel the emotion in every note, enhanced further by lushly subdued keyboards from Dwyer. Again, Dean seems a little uncomfortable with his pitch but the damage is minimal and the song retains a wealth of quality.
While I haven't hesitated to laud Dean's impact on Skyweaver, being that he's the voice and vision of Luthor, the album wouldn't be what it is without the first-rate contributions on bass from Harris and on the drums/keyboards from Dwyer. All three members of the band are high-quality musicians who breathe life into the songs and create what is, as I said at the beginning of this review, one of the best indie releases of 2004.
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