Label : Hypnotic Dirge Records
Review by Vard Aman
“The want to flee consumes me,
The urge to succumb eats its way,
Through a brawn weakened by seclusion”
Doom Metal is one of the most, if not the most varied and extreme forms of metal. When played badly, or is recorded badly, it can be abysmally bad (in a bad way); but when it is played well, there are few forms of music more powerful and more stirring than Doom Metal. Doom Metal is usually associated with scenarios of despair, depression, emptiness and, well, doom; but, when played well, I’ve always found it to be uplifting – a way to expose, revel in and release “the doom” through dramatization in a powerful extended aural climax. If you want to depress me, play me Justin Bieber, if you want to make me happy, play me some good Doom Metal. If Doom Metal conjures images of emptiness, then it’s an epic; a passionate; and a dramatic emptiness, a drama that plays on, and plays out the extremes of our imaginations and our imagined (or real) fears, losses and sorrows.
Well, good Doom Metal does anyway; bad Doom Metal, it is fair to say, can often spell instant boredom. Lycanthia, fortunately, are good Doom Metal. No, they’re more than that; they’re VERY good Doom Metal, and that means that everything in my somewhat purple-prosy description of good Doom Metal applies to them, and in great abundance! Lycanthia are from Sydney, Australia, and formed in 1996. In 1999 they released their debut “Myriad”, followed by lineup changes, an EP in 2006 called “Within the Walls”, more lineup changes, and now, in 2012, their second full length, “Oligarchy”. This band has staying power, and this is reflected not just in their continuing determination, but in their sound as well. Their sound is a Death Doom/Gothic Doom combo, nothing groundbreaking in that, but it’s the way they play what they play that makes Lycanthia the standout band they are and “Oligarchy” the standout album it is. Take the best parts of the harsher side of My Dying Bride mixed with the best parts of “Velvet Darkness They Fear”-era Theatre of Tragedy mixed with a bit of Draconian and you have Lycanthia. Are you drooling yet? No? OK, then add not one, but two extremely talented female vocalists (Vanessa Black and Megan Tassaker – also in Avrigus) whose wistful and melodic vocals are contrasted by a male vocalist (Lee Tassaker) whose raw, plaintive growls and shrieks would make most Death/Black Doom Metal vocalists proud. Now are you drooling? Still not? OK, go and listen to some Justin Bieber then… The heaviness, the power and the emotion is almost relentless throughout “Oligarchy”, further emphasized by the somber melodies. Likewise the contrast between the power of Lee’s growls and the melodic vocals of Vanessa and Megan (solo and harmonizing) serve to emphasize both.
On top of that, Vanessa and Megan contrast each other vocally too, and to the music itself they add violins and keyboards respectively. Stylistically, most of the songs on “Oligarchy” are fairly similar to each other, which is a good thing when you can’t get enough of this band and their musical creations. “Forgone” was the first song to be released, a single if you like. It’s a good summary of what this album is about, and when you get this album you can expect much more of this. “Hair of the Beast” is somewhat different to the other tracks, and this one takes a few more listens to get into than the others, perhaps for that reason. Lyrically, Lycanthia are as good as they are musically. They have all the poetic doom, emptiness, sorrow and despair that one would expect from this kind of music, but there is an additional element: a fantasy story-telling element – most prominently highlighted by the song “Forgone” which is a tale of a young god who falls in love with a mortal, enraging the other gods who strip him of his immortality as a consequence (a Lycanthia creation that sounds like it could be based on actual mythology, and there probably are many parallels) – just when you thought it couldn’t get more epic. But this is “epic” in the Doom Metal sense, so don’t expect any happy stories with happy endings – expect some very powerful stuff. Highlights off the album? All of them, although “Forgone” and “Despondency in Crescendo” are particular standouts and “Time Feeds These Wounds” and “Hair of the Beast” (as I’ve already mentioned) take a few listens to get into. So how highly do I rate this album against the many Doom Metal albums I’ve heard and own? As I am writing this review, I have been listening to this album for about a week and it’s still growing on me (“Forgone” since it was first released on YouTube). There have been some fantastic albums released by some fantastic bands, but if anyone breaks into my house right now (beating all my booby traps… just in case the thought crosses anyone’s mind… I am a Saffer after all), holds me at gunpoint and steals my collection, Lycanthia’s “Oligarchy” is the one they will have to prize out of my cold, dead hands. Or, maybe, considering that Lycanthia is not the biggest name out there they might be a bit more reluctant to fight over it and perhaps they might let me keep it… hehe, their loss if they do! But if they do take it, I’ll give them these bits of advice: listen to it loud and with the lights out (seriously, try it); and if for some reason they’re trying to maintain a tough-guy-who-doesn’t-blub-to-music image, they might want to listen to it alone – just in case they can’t handle the powerful and extended aural climax of one of best representatives and examples of one the ultimate forms of music. And then give it back, dammit!
Rating – 98/100
- The Essential Components of Misery
- Ablaze the Wheel Turns
- Despondency in Crescendo
- Time Feeds These Wounds
- Hair of the Beast
- From Ancestral Lands
- Lee Tassaker – Vocals & Bass
- Megan Tassaker – Vocals & Keyboards
- Vanessa Black – Vocals & Violin
- Stephen Mikulic – Guitars
- Giovanni Gariano – Guitars
- Andrew Craig – Drums