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Unnerving black metal; echoes of funeral doom. - 75%

ConorFynes, July 6th, 2015

I have recently been taken aback by the release of Lychgate's second album, An Antidote for the Glass Pill. Although I found their matrimony of black metal and funeral doom atmosphere to immediately click with me, I felt the rare compulsion to bear witness to their earlier work, to see how it was they had come upon such an unnerving sound. While it may seem comparably straightforward now in light of its successor, Lychgate's self-titled is a truly maniacal album. Seldom are visions so promising found on a black metal debut, even if it would take the band a few more years to properly realize it.

Lychgate found its origins in Archaicus, a one-man imagining from multi-instrumentalist Vortigern. Although one effectively became the other when full-time members joined the fold, Lychgate covers a far greater range than the Second Wave fuzz of its predecessor. Looking into the band's other members has brought me much closer to making sense of the band's unique style. Most notably, Esoteric's Greg Chandler handles the vocals here. His resonant growls are immediately distinctive, and are used to similar effect here as they are with his flagship band. Drummer Thomas Vallely may be best known for his work in Macabre Omen, but on a more personal note, I was surprised to see he and Vortigern had comprised the members of Orpheus, a one-time project I'd discovered during my prog rock explorations.

While I firmly stand by the notion that An Antidote for the Glass Pill has demonstrated just how far this self-titled was from reaching its stylistic ends, Lychgate introduced themselves in 2013 backed by a vicious range of influences. Although there is nothing to separate the music's essence from that of black metal tradition, Chandler's influence is firmly felt in the album's bleak atmosphere, which is dissociative enough to provoke comparison with funeral doom. Lychgate's 'doomy' impression is furthered considerably by Vortigern's use of swirling organ dissonance. While the actual black metal riffs here are actually quite melodic (in an almost Dissection sense) the music's consistently 'softest' ingredient is also its most punishing and atonal. Again, Lychgate introduced this punishing use of Gothic organ here, but it wouldn't be until the second album that the compositions exploit it for all its worth.

Although my strongest impression for the album is rooted in its experimentation with doom, a deceptively significant amount of the album's length is actually led by a more straight-played take on black metal. The above-mentioned atmospheric terror is ubiquitous throughout, but Lychgate songwriting doesn't appear to have fully embraced the fringier ends of their style. Quite often, I was not only reminded of Dissection, but mid-career Opeth, particularly on "Sceptre to Control the World" and "When Scorn Can Scourge No More". It's not that Lychgate didn't use these melodic influences admirably-- I found myself particularly endeared whenever I heard a trick from Storm of the Light's Bane used-- but I get the overarching sense that Lychgate's true identity lay on the dissonant end of their spectrum. This is a great debut by every account, but I think their second album has proven my assumption correct.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical

Witin the radius of Sun's birth - 83%

MetalDeity, September 18th, 2013

Lychgate is a new project by several members of various famous and aspiring metal artists, most prominently featuring those responsible for marvelous emanations we beheld from Lunar Aurora and Evoken. If a parallel has to be drawn to their sonic manifestation, it would be of a more synth-centered and organ-clad soundscape that reeks of Blut aus Nord, though devoid of its troubled and mind-blowing dissonance. Not to say riffs are a scarcity here, as they pretty much are a equal integral construct of its sound, but the ambience the organ is building with its swollen, soothing and bombastic splendor is insurpassable.

The themes revolve around a philosophical outlook on life, and I may have an actual problem recalling when some band had a better musical companion to its lyrical message. The guitars play some disjointed chords that are comfortably and suitably interspersed with sudden surges of organ's sweeping segues, but at no instance does it become sodden or threadbare, not just due to the album's relative short duration. The tempo changes are dictated by either drumming, often blasting or resorting to more interesting waltz between snare and cymbals, double-bass also partaking, or the already mentioned searing and spectral organ that infuses you with a sentiment of icy unease. The bass is reduced to a minimum, and I may have caught a few notes here and there, that sadly add or diminish little of its enveloping and suffocating atmosphere. Standout tracks among this masterpieces of 9 songs so well knit together that it is best experienced while listened in its entirety, would be "Against the Paradoxical Guild" due to its more varied, cross-style drumming and "Sceptre to Control the World", that so well encapsulates the album's bombast and mystique.

No doubt, this album is an excellent purveyor of future promises from these band, as they have instantly and without hesitation computed a formula that with its calculus of organ, and indecipherable guitars, all in cooperation with at times rather impressive and dedicated drumming, may have a plethora of more unnerving, introspective and haunting music to give audition to. Definitely recommended. 8,3/10

Subtly symphonic and undeniably evil - 88%

narsilianshard, September 3rd, 2013

Gilead Media has become one of the foremost purveyors of underground extreme metal in the past few years. The Adam Bartlett brainchild is a label where quality and consistency are king, making every single vinyl release a must-own for any heavy collection worth its weight. So when it was announced that the imprint would be debuting a full-length from a new black metal horde from the UK, well, suffice it to say I was intrigued. The label tends to focus on homegrown heroes so the fact that it was reaching across the pond could only mean good things, and what was unleashed was yet another gem from the filthy depths.

Born from the ashes of the one-man atmospheric project Archaicus, Lychgate evolved into a full band and transformed their sound into something more indescribable. It’s an amalgam of all things extreme, combining black metal and death-doom with fantastic results. The occasional symphonic flourish by way of creepy organ adds a horrible beauty without falling into the common clichés committed by bands who try to compete with movie scores. Subtlety is key, and that’s where Lychgate succeed.

As we spiral deep into the madness, the occasional familiarity will present itself. By the time the album is halfway through, the band’s penchant for clarity and precision has become apparent, and unexpected influences creep through the terror. The first half of “Sceptre to Control the World” sounds positively Opethian. And it’s not the only nod to the prolific Swedes you’ll hear, as the final track’s melancholic leads and off-kilter percussion reveal a sort of instrumental experimentation and cohesion that would only be expected from a group compatible beyond their years. These unexpected twists and turns become more and more apparent after repeat listens, rewarding patience. Drummer Jon Valelly plays seemingly on his own accord, adding a maddening, almost impromptu jazzy sheen to the mix which is beyond refreshing for a black metal debut. His ability to play both in sync with the rest of the band and up to his own demonic devices is unparalleled, a masterful feat.

With such a dense and dizzying output, I was hoping for a longer offering in both in track and album length; 38 minutes including an intro and interlude leaves you wondering what other sort of madness these occultists could have conjured up if they experimented with stretching their movements past the 6-minute mark. But with such mesmerizing songs and an overall impressive first album it’s hard to fault the Brits with much at all.

Andy O)))
http://alchemistscave.wordpress.com/

A beneficial change for black metal - 93%

Depersonalizationilosophy, May 9th, 2013

If Charles Darwin were alive he’d be proud and in awe before the very art in front of him. Hypothetically speaking if Lychgate were a rare specimen. Natural selection has deemed this creation of superior genetics and environmental adaptation. Lychgate is not simply a black metal band, no sir. They are everything at once but at the same time not (black metal breached in the sub-fields of progressive, symphonic, atmospheric, and avant-garde). Lychgate is made-up of members from different acts such as Esoteric, The One, Lunar Aurora, and Omega Centauri. They’re all experienced and wise. Judging from this self-titled album, they definitely have an understanding music on a grander scale. Even though there are the styles of black metal I spoke of earlier, it’s used in an articulate way. You figure it would be especially difficult to apply so many elements without fault representing itself. Yes quite but Lychgate somehow accomplished that goal. This is the direction and evolution black metal needs. These guys have managed to show what research is about. Someone who can objectively observe and use their findings to represent everything.

First thing I’d like to discuss is symphonic black metal, typing it sends shivers of disgust down my spine. Relatively speaking, Lychgate have little to no affiliation to said genre. In fact when done right the sound is tolerable. I only mentioned it because of the use of an organ to inject haunting reservoirs of cryptic uprising. The closest comparison I can make in classifying this is atmospheric black metal overall but avant-garde black metal collectively. According to their Facebook page, they identified themselves as art black metal which I find suitable because this is art of the finest taste.

Next let’s talk about conservation. Black metal is a diverse deal and even after all its branching that’s happened throughout its evolution, one thing that keeps it true is its ability to carry its roots no matter how well one is indulged in multiculturalism. Sure there are plenty of bands who glorify the inception of the second-wave of black metal and that’s just fine. Lychgate have a huge respect for it and it shows authentic conservation with the help of Aran (Lunar Aurora). The traditional bass sound is omnipresent throughout the album and perfectly captures the audacious ideas from the rest of his counterparts. It’s clearly shown on “In Self Ruin”. I like how it dwells away from traditional black metal yet can still keep fiercely well-connected blast beats and a ferocious fitting solo intertwined with a traditional black metal bass. That’s one thing; another trait crucial for black metal is the representation of a soul, in other words, expression, whether it’d be through hatred, sadness, sadism, isolation, or aggression, etc. but with intense passion.

It’s safe to say all musicians did indeed exhibit such a quality but the one who had a bit more of an edge was G. A. Chandler (Esoteric). His vocals were something else. Distant, cold, and dark they were. It varied from long and deep narrow-corridor growls to distant and mysterious screams. “Dust of a Gun Barrel” is the perfect example and my favorite song from the self-titled album. Impact was further shown on “Sceptre To Control” where there are blast-beats and an underlying rhythm speeding up the song but at the same time subdued and controlled by the assertive vocal prowess.

As the vocals had a tendency to tremble distortion of time, drums in the same respect accomplished like-mindedly. On the contrary to what I have explained in my review so far it’s not all blast-beats. In fact, I dislike musicians who hide behind them and are dependent on them, not T. J. F. Vallely (Omega Centauri). Blast-beats only account for about 23% here and throughout that entire percentage they were used creatively, fiercely, and passionately. Vallely’s real regard is shown in overall delivery. What all these musicians have equally in common is atmosphere.

Originally written for www.metal-temple.com