So the bank holiday has come and gone and it's back to the grind. Time seems to be going ever faster, but here's your brief chance to kick back and read about an album that may have stealthily passed your radar. This is the third review of my black metal review series, which will be going on at least in to next week. Now, you'll have noticed already that I'm not just focusing on one form of black metal. I wanted to cover different sounds and personalities, which is why today's review feature self proclaimed "art black metal" band Lychgate.
A band that features member/ex-members of UK doom band Esoteric and Agonia Records band Spearhead amongst others, Lychgate began as a solo-project in 2001 called Archaicus at the hands of Vortigern. Two demos were released in 2003 and 2004 before a period of silence, with Lychgate forming as a full band in 2012. Their self-titled debut came out earlier this year on LP through US label Gilead Media and on CD through UK label Mordgrimm.
1. The Inception
3. Against The Paradoxical Guild
4. In Self Ruin
5. Sceptre of Control The World
8. Dust of a Gun Barrel
9. When Scorn Can Scourge No More
This review goes some way to highlighting the breathe of talent and variation within black metal as a whole. That genre term can seem somewhat redundant nowadays, as with many other genre tags, but it still characterises the atmosphere felt within the music. As intro The Inception gives way to Resentment, you're greeted with slow burning doom influences black metal, which is no surprise when you consider the bands personnel. The music manages to sound chilling and visceral, without bludgeoning you and there's even room for some screeching solo’s, which show the band's musical dexterity. Due to slower pace of the music on Resentment, its near six-minute length makes sense. It's off-kilter and progressive at times but it's Greg Chandler's howls and Vortigern's organ sections that remind you that this isn't just some beard-stokers wet dream!
Some of you, who may not have heard Lychgate will be surprised to know that they're from these shores. They seem to channel the gloomy melancholy of bands like The Prophecy and mix it with original elements of the dark arts to present more of an ethereal atmosphere. Against The Paradoxical Guild features an extended instrumental mid-section with hellishly fast drumming and ambient riffs, while the screaming snaps you out of your hypnotic gaze. Underneath those screams, the musicality is quite astounding and just shows you what established musicians can do. The oppressive nature of Lychgate get's ever higher during In Self Ruin. The organ/keyboard textures add a huge sense of foreboding to the record and while some may be worried that it's cheesy, I can tell you it's not! It adds melody that along with the guitars; keeps your interest and really gets under your skin. The way that Lychgate manages to change the feeling of the music mid-way through Sceptre To Control The World catches you unaware, as they switch into a drone like state, but ride it out as the ambiance hidden within feels all the more real.
With interlude Intermezzo breaking up the momentum briefly, you have time to take stock of what you've heard so far because not too far around the corner is Triumphalism. Taking the chants from Intermezzo and building on them, allowing them to sit alongside the drums in the mix really increases the sense of menace and occultism. They can be heard beneath the screams throughout and give the track a real synergy. Sometime, you'll feel like a rabbit caught in headlights, such is the punishing journey that Lychgate takes you on. There isn't much light in this dark! The final ten minutes of the record give way to Dust Of A Gun Barrel and When Scorn Can Scourge No More. Dust Of A Gun Barrel switches between an off-kilter, sometime atonal riffs to almost silent, haunting melodies from the guitars. There are dramatic surges in volume after those quieter parts, but it still remains frightening. I think this song epitomises that doom/black metal pairing that Lychgate brings to this record. It's meant to be mournful and despairing, with no thought for humankind, yet the personalities of those involved manage to show through more than you'd expect.
Closer, When Scorn Can Scourge No More presents itself in an almost upbeat manner. It's initial beat skips amongst the wall of guitar and lures you into a false sense of security. It's not long before things settle back down and Lychgate retreat to their progressive best, with some great melodic lead riffs being the highlight of the song and giving them a grand departure to end on. If I wanted to give you a reference point, Lychgate would be the band that you would turn to if you've had enough of the side-show that it modern day Dimmu Borgir, but Lychgate are so much more than that. They have for me, more integrity. They have enough skill in their own ranks to be able to produce intense occult black metal without pilfering from bands half as good as them. Stop cowering behind your Cradle of Filth and Children of Bodom and listen to something with genuine heart and soul. Once you're sucked in, you'll never go back!
You can stream three tracks from this record via Mordgrimm's bandcamp page below:-
You can buy the album from the following places:-
CD - Mordgrimm - http://mordgrimm.bigcartel.com/
LP - Gilead Media - http://www.gileadmedia.net/
Lychgate Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Lychgate
Gilead Media Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/gileadmedia
Mordgrimm Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Mordgrimm