Huntsmen – Mandala of Fear (Prosthetic Records)

For seasoned metalheads, a truly startling new record can be a rare event. Yes of course there’s a hell of a lot of great music out there. But something that feels genuinely original? It doesn’t arrive too often.

Mandala of Fear, however, feels like ‘one of them’. Huntsmen’s starlit close harmonies drift along in the dusty breeze of folksy Americana, the band’s juggernaut riffs are tempered by an almost ethereal beauty, the vocal performances are absolutely staggering.

Yes, we already knew the Chicago act were a very special proposition, thanks to 2017’s fascinating American Scrap. But this opus, built around a tale of apocalyptic war, elevates the band to stratospheric levels.

The contribution of singer Aimee Bueno, now a fully fledged member of Huntsmen after guesting on American Scrap’s The Last President, is one part of the magic recipe. The other is well-honed, elemental songcraft that turns songs like Colossus and The Swallow into primal pulses which emanate from the Earth’s heart.

Opener Ride Out has more spinetingling moments in its five glorious minutes than many bands will conjure up in a career. Instrumental Atomic Storms crashes and thunders with menacing power. God Will Stop Trying wistfully glistens before succumbing to crushing doom. On Clearing The Sand, the quintet deftly weave intricate patterns into the track’s mesmerising, titanic groove.

Indeed, wherever you enter this emotionally fraught story of hope, fear, despair and resilience, you’ll find spellbinding moments.

And while at 13 songs spanning two LPs, Mandala of Fear may be an epic journey, it’s one worth taking.