Posted by Nick Skog on Monday, July 1, 2013 Under: Album Reviews
From: Destructive Music
Published: July 1, 2013
Published: July 1, 2013
On first listen, I did quite like Lycanthia’s ‘Oligarchy’ as a mood-setter: it has the gently twanging lead guitar lines, keening violin melodies, and pretty decent operatic female vocal/growled male vocal duo that make a good gothic/doom metal album. There’s some luscious and tasty composition elements in here, particularly in the classical-influenced sections, but I felt that something was not quite sitting right, and it eventually clicked. Although ‘Oligarchy’ is great at the time of listening, it isn’t the most memorable album by a long shot, and so for all its beauty, it can never quite get beyond being a good album that holds similarities to a lot of better ones.
Take the opener ‘The Essential Components of Misery’ – it is a nine-minute opener with some good touches: an initially shaky keyboard symphonic section opens into a commanding, polyphonic expanse that offers silken grandeur in contrast to the death growl vocals and crunching guitar riffs, The band also know when to go full throttle in terms of layering and when to strip it back: they can and do use both vocalists, guitars, violin, bass, keys, and drums; yet they will also showcase particular elements, like the heavier typical metal instrumentation, or the more symphonic side. But the songwriting overall comes over as lots of nice parts rather than a cohesive and directed whole. By the end, there’s no real sense of progression, imaginatively or emotionally, which is what you’d look for in a piece like that.
This is somewhat redeemed by the double act of the more sparse ‘Eternity’, which foregrounds a tender, mournful violin melody over a jangling, chorus-drenched guitar tone reminiscent of the 80s goth bands, to create a lyrical lament that, while still lacking in real emotiveness (and opting for “this sounds sad”) is a marked improvement, and the seamless segue to ‘Forgone’ and its chugging guitars and full-on metal blast beats and dual vocals is a strong and powerful move. However, the two vocals are removed, not so much dualling or duetting as happening to occupy the same space for unknown reasons, and this incongruity is also present in the general relation between the gothic symphonic sections and the metal sections: both are good enough, but don’t always feel like they really know they’re on the same record. As the track progresses, this is rectified as there is some harmonised interaction, but even this is somewhat loose, and the instrumental sections have solos and leads that feel melodically confused and directionless. ‘Ablaze The Wheel Turns’ handles this a bit better – its more succinct six minutes prevents meandering, and the band seem able to both compartmentalise their sounds and then bring them together. Although there’s still a lack of union between them, the melodies and compositions here are some of the best and most memorable. Which is harder to say for ‘Despondency in Crescendo’. Although there are some good moments here, the metal and symphonics again fail to really gel, leaving the listener with two, slightly diminished, separate elements, and the track doesn’t crescendo so much as linger. Which is a shame, because the thick and springy guitar tone and lilting classical melodies are nice, even if neither riff nor melody alone is memorable, for all their evocativeness, and the female vocals really come into their soaring, beautiful element.
The mystical-sounding echoes of ‘Time Feeds This Wound’, with its claustrophobic tension caused by dense drumming and the multi-tracked clean vocals that self-harmonise, along with a good tasteful use of minor key melodies, is nice, if not entirely awe-inspiring, and ‘Hair of the Beast’ is a frustration; it seems to suggest that the track will provide excitement. The string sections and guitar riffs use middle-eastern harmonic minors in a Rainbow-esque fashion, while the rhythmic gallops and flourishes suggest exhiliration, however this doesn’t go beyond a suggestion, as the midtempo pace continues to brood throughout, and the multiple layers weigh the track down rather than make it dramatic and dynamic. Then closing track ‘To Ancestral Lands’ is much the same: all the strengths and all the flaws are still very much in full force.
I wish I could find more to say about Lycanthia – the effort is undoubtedly there in their songwriting and playing, but it persistently falls short, and fails to leave any great and lasting impact.
Reviewed by: Katie Haley-Halinski
In : Album Reviews
Tags: lycanthia oligarchy gothic death-doom metal atmospheric melancholic australian within the walls myriad