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Lycus : Demo 2011

This 3-track demo represents something of a resurrection for Californians Lycus.

This 3-track, 25-minute demo represents something of a resurrection for Californians Lycus, re-formed two years after the original band split up. As a means of showcasing their abilities and potential, it more than succeeds - their sound has a maturity and depth that belies the comparatively brief active life of the band. Well-produced and with a crisp clarity of sound, the first impression is one of assured professionalism.

Lycus themselves adopt the simple tag of doom metal, which is perhaps as good a description as any for a sound that incorporates a number of different elements from various sub-genres. By turns melodic, atmospheric, dark, distorted and detuned, it draws mainly from the death/doom canon, but certainly contains more than a nod towards the craft of funeral and the denser tapestries of sludge. In many respects, this sounds more like a modern take on classic northern European style than an American offering.

The three tracks, clocking in at around 8, 8 and 9 minutes, make a real and successful attempt to create different soundscapes from the same core themes. Sustain and distortion characterise the underlying guitar and bass, with frequent use of more prominent and complex melodic riffing to contrast both that and the primarily deep, growling vocals. This main vocal part is well-metered and controlled throughout, merging and interacting with the other instruments rather than standing apart. The drumming, too, weaves into the mix, never simply passively marking time but alternately chasing and leading the melody lines. The final layer is a wordless, eerily choral male backing voice - used almost like keyboards would be - to add depth and occasional counterpoint.

Opener "Resonance In Aether" takes this sonic template and turns it into a restrained but crushing and, above all, heavy progression from slow and desolate introduction to riff-heavy finale. The most straightforward of the three, it clearly lays out the band's doom credentials and ability to sustain the momentum of a song without wasting or filling time. The bass comes forward to lead in "Among The Ruins" and underpins the whole track. Slower, colder and more funereal in nature than the previous song, this evokes a powerful and bleak atmosphere. The final track, "Aghast", starts in similar vein to the first but adds a surprising twist with a more frantic and hoarsely screamed middle section which comes straight from the unhallowed pages of black metal's favoured playbook. On first hearing, the transition seems almost incongruous, but - unexpectedness aside - it actually fits surprisingly well into the musical context. It leads seamlessly into a reprise of the opening theme and builds from there, through a sequence of interlinked changes of tempo, towards a darkly epic climax.

Overall, this shows an impressive breadth of vision and willingness to experiment. The use of voice as a counterpoint instrument is inspired, adding an almost gothic edge - in the darkly romantic literary, rather than musical, sense - to what is already an accomplished mix of influences. As a matter of personal taste, there are a couple of very minor criticisms: firstly, the somewhat abrupt stop and fade of each track seems a little uninspired compared to the rest of the songwriting. Secondly, the lyrics have nothing like the craftsmanship of the music, creating neither poetic imagery nor clear perspective but simply stringing a series of vague allusions to the world being a sad place together. Other than that, download, enjoy and keep an ear out for what comes next: on the strength of this, it should be very, very good.

Reviewer's rating: 7/10


Tracklist :
1. Resonance In Aether
2. Among the Ruins
3. Aghast

Duration : Approx. 25 minutes

Visit the Lycus bandpage.

Reviewed on 2011-08-22 by Mike Liassides
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