After the demo Demo MMXI (2011),
Lycus, formed in the San Francisco Bay Area by drummer Trevor DeSchryver and guitarist Jackson Heath,
added second guitarist Dylan Burton and
debuted with the doom metal of
Tempest (20 Buck Spin, 2013), containing three lengthy pieces.
The eleven-minute Coma Burn displays all the elements of classic
doom: a funereal pace, more-than-dead growling,
a forlorn guitar melody that eventually morphs into a solemn hymn
(but also a brief burst of energy after seven minutes).
The ten-minute Engravings opens with an operatic aria but undergoes
several mutations, from quasi-black metal to quasi-pop metal.
The 20-minute Tempest exhales sadness from the very first
guitar tones, even before the majestic desperate lament rises like a
zombie's "om". The blastbeats that shake the foundation of the song
after five minutes are met by superhuman screams that only add more aching
to the aching. The problem is that the ups and downs of this prog-rock
mini-opera sound a bit disconnected from each other; but the last five
of undulating guitar drones do augment the melancholy with a sort of
The limit of Lycus is that it all sounds too elegant and user-friendly,
"doom wallpaper" that can be consumed without real engagement.
Chasms (Relapse, 2016) opens with the most theatrical composition,
Solar Chamber (10:41), a catalog of their trademark tricks,
from the black-metal break to the feverish guitar distortion, but the
flow feels artificial, as if different sections were composed at different
Similarly, but better designed, Chasms (13:06) changes mood and style a few times, from
the quiet beginning to the poppy guitar motif at the six-minute mark, from
the galopping apocalyptic choir to the hypnotic march of distortions and growls
that leads to a somnolent decay lulled by a cello
(Jackie Perez Gratz).
Each of the four pieces boasts memorable melodies, and Mirage (7:27) is
emblematic of how they use the cello to enhance them.
In fact, by the standards of doom-metal,
Obsidian Eyes (12:23) is a pop ballad, with a guitar solo (six minutes
into the song) that "sings" a soulful refrain, and romantic counterpoint of
cello for the noisier sections.
The band sounds more cohesive, especially the way the two guitars balance
each other, how they weave the loud distortion of one with the sentimental
tones of the other; and also the way the two vocalists interact, with the
growling one towering over the "clean" one but never completely annihilating
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