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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/