Lycus are the kind of doom metal that begs to be listened to in a dark room, surrounded by candles, while wearing a robe. Though a doom metal act at heart, Lycus inject a myriad of different influences that take what would otherwise be by-the-numbers, low and slow metal. Debut album Tempest was an album that could have come from veterans of the genre. That it was a debut from a young band located in a scene not known for funereal doom (Oakland, CA) was even more impressive. Having spent the interim playing alongside prominent acts such as Mournful Congregation, Agalloch, Loss, Evoken, and Graves at Sea, Lycus are now set to drop their sophomore album. But how does it hold up to Tempest, and the band’s pedigree?
Chasms is a relatively safe follow up to Tempest, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lycus have injected elements of death metal, black metal and post metal into the mix. Far from diluting the core doom sound, these elements mesh well with Lycus’s excellent songwriting and composition, elevating them from just another band who plays their music really slow and loud to something special. Much like genre innovators Evoken and Loss, Lycus take a style of music that’s often dismissed by those not “in the know” and introduce a blend of individuality and freshness into a genre that can often be seen as rather stale.
Spanning only four tracks, but lasting almost 45 minutes, Chasms is a meaty album that can be difficult to digest on first listen. Repeated exposure reveals the hidden depths of the album, however, and the songwriting on display is complicated, nuanced and engrossing. Tracks like “Solar Chamber” and the title track are slow burns, shifting and morphing between arrangements. The best doom draws you in until you’re utterly lost in the music, almost akin to an altered state of consciousness, and Lycus accomplish this spectacularly on every track on Chasms.
Chasms production and mix is decidedly more old-school than the current crop of metal bands are trending towards, but the atmosphere gained from this organic sound far outweighs any slight amount of clarity sacrificed, and truth be told, it’s easy enough to recognize who is playing what, and when, and the thick, layered sound adds to the weight of the album, making it seem huge and intimidating even at it’s quietest moments. Lycus certainly recognize that it’s important to write songs that ebb and flow and build into something larger than themselves, like the best post-rock and metal bands have demonstrated, and they do so to great affect. Once Chasms gets going, it’s very hard to stop listening, as the music pulls you along into the dark, foreboding yet strangely beautiful world Lycus have created on the album.
It’s a testament to their skill as musicians and songwriters that a band so young can sound like genre veterans, and follow up a celebrated debut album with one that’s different, engaging and creative enough to stand on it’s own. Chasms is a fantastic way to start 2016, and Lycus are a band to keep an eye on.