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A progeny of the singularity - 80%

noisevortex, March 19th, 2020

The singularity, transhumanism, self-improving AI. The idea of conscious computers is as old as sci-fi itself. Even before the advent of computers and the internet, science-fiction was obsessed with the idea of machines resembling humans. Stronger, faster, better than the real thing. With further technological advances possibility became certainty. An AI with the ability to learn and to improve itself isn’t science-fiction anymore. The question whether these capabilities can be expanded beyond hyperfocussed tasks has become a “when” not “if”.

On their latest work, british Lychgate dive headfirst into this world and what better sounds to accompany the unfeeling usurpers in their task than the cinematic avantgarde. Lychgate is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist J.Y. Vortigern who composes all of the music for the project. Greg Chandler of Esoteric and S.D. Lindsley as well as a roster of guest musicians join him in realizing his vision. Also sprach Futura is the first EP the band has released after three challenging albums that were met with acclaim and skepticism alike. Understandably so, in the face of Lychgate’s genre-defying output that prominently features an actual organ.

While previous releases by the band could resemble an exhausting exercise, Also sprach Futura appears more approachable, maybe even accessible. However, the band’s consistent strength in crafting theatrical and dense atmospheres remains intact. Also sprach Futura features some of Lychgate’s blackest material and sees the band advance on all fronts. Opener Incarnate stands out as one of the strongest tracks in the band’s entire catalog despite its brevity. Ominous organ arrangements loom in the back of the mix as melodic guitars lead the way. The virtuosic drumming takes over and segues the track into a satisfying black metal sprint.

The other tracks on the EP expand on the concept and underline that more variance in pace leads to much more dynamic and organic outcomes for the band. Instruments that previously seemed to exist in a vacuum now work in tandem. The additional instruments enrich the core of traditional metal instrumentation with their atmospheric capabilities. Despite that, the organ never takes a backseat to the rest of the music. In fact, it’s as prominent as it was during the Glasspill era. The application is what differs and lights the way into new avenues the band will hopefully explore further.

The lyrical concept puts the finishing touch on the EP and ties everything together into a coherent frame. As always, Lychgate’s music is thematically dense and philosophical. This time, the mind of project leader Vortigern is concerned with the implications technological advancements have for the future of humanity. Drawing on myth and fiction alike, the evocative lyrics create a grim vision of our future. The contrast between the powerful instrumentation and disturbing message makes Also sprach Futura an unsettling experience unlike anything in the extreme music of recent years.

Also sprach Futura is a remarkable new step in Lychgate’s career that should turn heads even among skeptics. Vortigern unlocked new ways of expression for the band that not only align with their previous output but also point towards new strengths. The result is a more approachable but nonetheless captivating EP that doesn’t have to compromise in the slightest.