This is the moment I’ve been waiting for, the reason I started this column. This album is the canonical obscure gem, perhaps the best obscure album of all time. Lykathea Aflame were a Czech progressive brutal death metal band that formed in 1999 (well, technically they formed in ’97 with a different name, but you catch my drift). They’ve since fallen off the map, allegedly having changed their name to Lykathé, but there is no information about them. They only made one album, Elvenefris, but even that singular album is still one of the most unique albums of all time. Anyone who has heard it knows what I’m talking about. If you don’t believe me, check Metal Archives. This album has a 97% rating with 17 reviews there, which is pretty much unheard of. Now it’s my duty to try to explain to you all why you should definitely listen to this hallmark obscure album.
I personally urge everyone to at least listen to this album once. I shall make a very exceptional statement at the end of this article, and hopefully you’ll agree with me if you have listened to it.
How do I even begin to describe Lykathea Aflame? Think oldschool Cryptopsy meets Nile, but way more progressive. Lord Worm-esque vocals with oriental Nile-style riffing and drumming that’s inspired by Flo Mounier. With a lot of new age atmospheric sections in between. If you know what I’m talking about, even this description should be blowing your mind right now. Here you go:
The above track, ‘Land Where Sympathy Air’, is the opening track of this album, and it’s only a fraction of what you’ll encounter. What I always thought was lacking in Cryptopsy was dynamics in their songs, they were always on murder mode. Lykathea Aflame address this by adding a truckload of progressive elements to spice up the sound, and it works phenomenally. This song is absolutely perfect, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. Yes, the production is a bit weird if you like modern metal, but for this genre of music I think the production works well. This is gritty, dirty metal, made in Prague with no monetary concern. The drumming is clearly untriggered and recorded live. You can hear every note every instrument plays, which is more than enough. By the way, there’s a whopping total of eleven tracks on this album, and all of them are insane. They’re also all fairly long, with an average song length of around six minutes. Lykathea Aflame might have disappeared, but they did leave a hell of an album behind.
Listening to the second track, ‘To Become Shelter And Starvation’, there is a lot of ambience, and a Nile influence on the vocals. It’s very different from the previous track yet it’s still amazing. Yes, I keep saying that, because this album is seriously mind-blowing. There’s also clean vocals on display here, but in a way that makes perfect sense combined with the guttural vocals that come right after. Anybody who’s interested in progressive death metal should listen to this album to see how it should be done. The riffage flows together so well, every section is so perfectly timed, every song a masterpiece.
What’s usually lacking in brutal death metal is variety in the drumming and riffing. While most artists of that genre are very talented with their instruments, their songwriting ends up being stale. Drummers end up blast beating all the time, whereas guitar players rely heavily on dissonant patterns. The drumming of Lykathea Aflame is unlike any other band, there are very weird snare hit patterns and it’s very creative overall. The riffing is very melodic yet dissonant at times, and the guitarists know when to slow down and let the atmosphere breathe. There are pianos, clean guitars and clean vocals. How many brutal death metal albums have that? If you have listened to the songs I have posted so far, you probably have noticed that they’re all journeys that start with a certain mood and constantly vary in pace and end at a different mood. I don’t know of any other band that is so progressive and unique yet so brutal at the same time.
Here’s the shortest track on the album, ‘To Give’. This song is so crazy memorable and brutal at the same time. And it’s also very proggressive. Do you believe me now? I don’t know of any other band that can achieve so much so consistently in such a short song. Have I blown your mind enough? Are you convinced yet? Let me take you to the other end of the spectrum:
Here’s the longest “real” track on the album (the instrumental final track is new age ambient music rather than metal), ‘And Old Man and A Child’, which is nine minutes long—all of it brutal. What’s interesting, though, is how melancholic this album is. There usually isn’t any emotion attached to brutal death metal usually, it’s just all rage. This album is so emotional, so phenomenal and unlike anything else.
I’ve only dipped a little bit into this amazing album, but you should go ahead and experience the rest of this yourself. I’ve already said that this album is very unique and amazing, but I’ll make a very bold assertion that I’m sure many will agree with: This album is the best death metal album of all time. I don’t know any death metal fan who has heard of this album and isn’t completely mesmerized by it. I know that my expectations for other music were heightened unreasonably after I listened to Elvenefris. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything else that even compares to it. And the tragedy of obscurity is that many people aren’t aware of this album. Hopefully I have raised awareness even by a tiny bit, and I hope I’ve made your life a little bit better by sharing this amazing gem with you all.