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Lycanthia : Oligarchy


Lycanthia's sweeping, lush sound combines a technically adept atmospheric edge with sub-orchestral flourishes.



Lycanthia are one of those bands you may well have heard of, with 17 years and counting of existence behind them, yet never actually heard anything by, thanks to a prior release catalogue comprising just one demo, one album and an EP - none of which are readily obtainable. Second album 'Oligarchy', initially released through Australia's Green Media Distribution in 2012 (a mere 13 years after the debut full-length 'Myriad'), was the start of raising that ultra-low-profile to a national level and beyond.

Which is why the copy I'm looking at now is not an Australian import, but the worldwide 2013 re-release in digipack format through Canada's Hypnotic Dirge Records. Presented with what I can only consider the usual attention to detail, the simple and sombre cover encloses a clearly-printed lyric and information foldout and, of course, a crisp and well-produced CD on which the six-piece band present their views on modern existence. Interestingly, the 'Thanks' section of the booklet features a number of bands that I had considered namechecking as in some way comparable during review - stalwarts of the Australian melodic Gothic/Death Doom underground such as Elegeion, The Eternal and Virgin Black.

As that's as good a place to start as any: Lycanthia are indeed somewhere on the same wavelength as those aforementioned bands, with a sweeping, lush sound that combines a technically adept atmospheric edge with sub-orchestral flourishes. I say 'sub-orchestral' because it's not really symphonic, in the sense usually associated with Gothic. Both violin and keyboard are used to good effect, often carrying the melody lines with an almost folksy feel rather than any sort of high bombast. So, too are the vocals - undoubtedly Beauty and the Beast, with the contrast between rough male growls and two female singers, but neither of the latter indulge in operatic histrionics beyond some classical phrasing. Instead, all three voices co-operate and complement in the sort of interplay favoured by Draconian.

All of which means that Lycanthia also differ quite markedly from those named bands - not as cold and distant as Elegeion, more orchestrally-inclined than The Eternal, but less baroque and neo-classical than Virgin Black. Given the vocal contrasts and the extra ornaments and often lilting, soaring music, 'Oligarchy' perhaps comes in closest to the feel of early Theatre Of Tragedy, but with a charm that is all its own.

And that's more than enough of comparison, because, quite simply, this deserves to be considered purely on its own merits rather than in the light of others. Most notable of those, perhaps, is the unselfish way all of the instruments interact, sharing the stage with balanced contributions that add up to more than the sum of the individual parts. The layers of music from paired guitars, bass, drums, violin and keyboard are all clearly audible, yet meld together into compositions that, for all their technical depth, never sound fussy or overblown. The vocals weave around and through this often beautifully-melodic sound, painting surprisingly poetic, lyrical pictures of what are actually quite grimly miserable, nihilistic subjects - like a core of darkness, encapsulated in light.

In fact, there's so much going on, with little pause for breath - other than the short instrumental 'Eternity...' - that it's possible to miss out on a number of the more subtle and clever touches without repeated listening; and surprising how much more there is to discover beyond the initial and obvious appeal. That ranges from the quite pacy and slightly raucous power of 'Forgone', 'Ablaze The Wheel Turns' and 'From Ancestral Lands' to the more contemplative deliberation of longest tracks 'The Essential Components Of Misery' and 'Despondency In Crescendo' and the more off-beat, quirky 'Time Feeds This Wound' and 'Hair Of The Beast': enough compositional variation to keep the album interesting throughout.

In conclusion: although it's clearly Gothic Doom and, as such, not breaking any significantly new ground, what 'Oligarchy' does do is present it in a mature, refined and above all superbly-crafted incarnation. If there's any justice, it'll be taking its place as an acknowledged classic of the genre.


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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10

Information

Tracklist :
1. The Essential Components Of Misery
2. Eternity...
3. Forgone
4. Ablaze The Wheel Turns
5. Despondency In Crescendo
6. Time Feeds This Wound
7. Hair Of The Beast
8. From Ancestral Lands

Duration : Approx. 53 minutes

Visit the Lycanthia bandpage.

Reviewed on 2013-06-04 by Mike Liassides
Aesthetic Death
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