I have recently been taken aback by the release of Lychgate‘s sophomore 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 in order 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 debut 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 James “Vortigern” Young. 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 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 album 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 quite melodic in a sense that almost borders on the iconic sound of Dissection, the music’s consistently ‘softest’ ingredient is also its most punishing and atonal. Again, Lychgate introduced this punishing use of gothic organ on this self-titled effort, 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’s songwriting doesn’t appear to have fully embraced the fringier ends of their style. I was often 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 utilized—but I get the overarching sense that their true identity can be found 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.
01) The Inception
03) Against the Paradoxical Guild
04) In Self Ruin
05) Sceptre to Control the World
08) Dust of a Gun Barrel
09) When Scorn Can Scourge No More