Oakland's Lycus (with origins in Sacramento) released their first full length, 'Tempest' on July 9th 2013. The work serves as a continuation of their 2011 demo recording (reviewed here) and furthers the band's foray into doom metal. Repeating the three track format of the demo, the quartet's ambitions continue to grow along with the longer compositions, culminating in the 20 minute title track (which comprises a solid amount of feedback etc as a denouement). Increasing song lengths can open the long brewing debate about compositional restraint and melody population, but that debate does not seem to haunt the creation of these three very powerful artworks. Despite the length (and the potential pitfalls), there is actually quite little in the way of repetition as far as extended length doom metal tracks go. The group again skillfully uses a formula of mounting weight and dread as the songs evolve into their culminating moments. The overall result listens as quite modern in its hybridity (full on blasting attacks on "Coma Burn" and pensive reflection by way of the guitars) and attention to detail.
What makes doomy music unique is that fact that it can either fade into the background or completely enrapture and enclose the listener. There is a secondary level of this durability as well, as the genre's best bands and recordings can also invade moments where the listener thinks it has a say in where the music should be. While listening to the enlivened tremolo attacking mid-section of "Engravings," (which is also probably the best song of the bunch) some run of the mill homework drudgery was turned into a empowered moment where listening and acting became one. Such moments are what music listeners live for, and this particular instance was quite awesome. These guys do a service in making everyday moments transcend. And it wasn't the only one. The vocals are imposingly haunting in their cleanest moments, and could potentially be used even more with some tasteful multi-tracking or even harsher 'female' vocals to further the expansive work.
In the review for the demo, this author spent to much time discussing the recording's funeral doom heritage and elements, which in hindsight are not that apparent. The doom of Lycus is indeed regal and dirge-like, but it is not the kind that populates a funeral. It is a more immediate and brooding doom that is aptly illustrated in both the beautifully realized album artwork and the lyrical/musical landscape. This is aided by the uncluttered arrangement, which includes a rather clear cut drum sound that keeps the less straightforward or focused moments in check. Keeping focus is what can make a album of this kind soar or sour. In order to keep improving, Lycus should keep experimenting with the possibilities that present themselves in the open spaces of their sound. Excellent work, and the metal world is looking forward to the next offering. In the mean time, pick this one up and support them on their current tour.
Lycus is on tour (see postings)