Mysterious UK doom unit Lychgate bring bleak new levels of creepiness, eerieness

LychgateI love to be totally off-my-ass surprised by a metal record and its situation, and that’s turned into something that doesn’t happen nearly as often as I would like it to these days. That’s likely a product of oversaturation, some bands not really being all that ready to make records, and labels just signing whatever the fuck will get them some money.

When I got an e-mail from Gilead Media about the release of the debut record from Lychgate, I was excited because I trust the label and know they put out good music. It also made me seek out a little bit more about the Cambridge-based band that I didn’t know a lot about beyond their band name and minor details about their sound. Gilead Media certainly has a nice range of sounds that go from rugged black metal to more atmospheric bands in that same sub-genre, and also some sludge and some hardcore-influenced sounds. From what I understood about Lychgate, this seemed to be a venture in an entirely new direction, and now that I’ve heard and fully absorbed the band’s self-titled debut, that line of thinking is confirmed, and it’s an exciting new venture for the label (Mordgrimm will handle the release in the UK).

Lychgate coverIf someone had played me the Lychgate record before I knew anything about them and asked me to pick what label it’s on, I might go with Debemur Morti or Profound Lore, because this band seems right up their alleys. But Gilead Media jumped on these guys, and much to their credit, they’re going to be the ones recognized for bringing this creepy, creaky, spirited doom metal band to the States and exposing one of the more interesting outfits from this sub-genre I’ve heard in a while. They also have a bit of black metal eeriness in their sound, which adds yet another level of darkness. This Lychgate record taught me two things: Even a sub-genre that seems flooded with content can pull out something exhilarating and rewarding when the artists behind it have a true passion and course of action that makes you realize they mean business. Second, never try to guess what a strong label is up to, because they’ll always find a way to pull out the stops and surprise you.

Lychgate actually started as Archaicus, led solely by Vortigern, who handles guitars, chants, and the huge organs you hear haunting this record. Joining him now are Greg Chandler on guitars and vocals, who you might know better from his role with mighty doom merchants Esoteric, bassist Aran (Lunar Aurora), and drummer Tom Vallely (Omega Centauri). They’re a mighty team, and their sound practically reeks of early ’90s British doom, which is a huge plus for a listener like me, and those aforementioned organs add an insane level of dark soulfulness, making you feel like you need to genuflect before them to avoid whatever curse they plan to put on your head. Don’t expect their mercy.

“The Inception” is your dusty introduction track, that lets its horrible spirit into the room and gives it time to find a nice corner of your room to scare your senseless. “Resentment” unfurls slowly, with dark riffs, allowing cold, dusty drapery to crash over the windows and inspires a creaky, weary ache in your soul. Chandler’s growls are harsh and deep, and once the organs spill all over, things are damn near liturgical. “Against the Paradoxical Guild” is more fierce and screamy, showing some of their black metal tendencies and savagery, with mournful guitar lines and blistering drums. “In Self Ruin” brings back the giant chest heaves of organ, that sound downright ritualistic, and again we’re leveled with a heavier approach and more aggressive tempo. “Sceptre to Control the World” has an old-school death metal bend, and yet there are dreary, doomy sentiments included, along with a melody that evokes sorrow.

“Intermezzo,” as I’m sure you guessed, is an interlude track, whirry and airy, also ghostlike. “Triumphalism” is one of the shortest tracks on the record and is punchy and to the point, getting in, creating a body count, and moving on to the next unfortunate household. “Dust of a Gun Barrel” has  Deathspell Omega-style experimentation, with its slurry, hypnotic melodies and creaked growls. The whole song is off-kilter and unsettling, and if it doesn’t chill you to the bone, you might already be deceased. Closer “When Scorn Can Scourge No More” has that aforementioned ’90s feel big time, bringing back thoughts of old Paradise Lost and Cathedral, and its doom-encrusted sensibility, shoegazey dreaming, and intoxicating grimness is a great way to bring this record crashing to its conclusion.

Lychgate is another tremendous find for Gilead Media, and this band should be one of the more exciting doom projects going forward. They have a personality few others in the tidal wave of doom can boast, and I’m sure experience and hunger are primary reasons for that. This is a really strong debut that hopefully is the first of many terrifying chapters to come.

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