Lycus’ debut record ‘Tempest’ overflows with devastating depression and anguish


The last decade or so has been a good one for depression. What I mean is, you’re no longer ostracized and beaten down by society if you happen to regularly not feel right and have crippling bouts of sadness and inactivity that you can’t seem to break. It’s not that you’re weak or not worth anything, it’s that your brain has something going on that make you feel fucking miserable.

Along with the wider acceptance of depression and anguish has come bands that do an amazing job expressing the darkness and pain inside of them and have no problem entering what can be a macho, meat-headed world of metal and pouring their sadness out in front of you. Australia’s Mournful Congregation is a wonderful example of this type of sad, lurching doom metal designed to make you feel every ounce of their pain along with them, and Loss practically make you want to call 911 on their behalf just in case they’re feeling a little too much like what they express in their songs.

lycus coverAnother band that’s proving excellent at conveying these brooding feelings is Oakland, California-based quartet Lycus, who already made a mammoth impression on their “Demo MMXI,” a hugely impactful recording that only hinted at what this group was capable of doing. But on their dark, devastating debut album “Tempest,” they take their tumult and sound even further, showing a more fully realized version of the band that’s ready to become a major force in the doom metal world. Their lurching, melodic, trickling doom sounds just right if you need someone to pound at the walls alongside of you, and the three cuts on the record are some of the most promising, eye-opening expressions the sub-genre has seen this side of Pallbearer’s stunning debut. If people are paying attention (that’s no given), then Lycus are going to be celebrated and lauded for this incredible debut album, and this record easily should make more than a handful of year-end lists come wintertime.

Lycus is made up of guitarist/vocalist Jackson, bassist/vocalist Daniel, guitarist Dylan Burton (he’s the newcomer to the band), and drummer/vocalist Trevor Deschryver. Their debut is offered up by 20 Buck Spin, a label that has released its fair share of anguish-charred material, from aforementioned Mournful Congregation to Atriarch to Alaric to Samothrace. The combination seems to make perfect sense, and it feels like a musical marriage that could last well into the future.

The album bubbles open on “Coma Burn,” an 11:38-long slow scorcher that starts with mournful notes that actually remind of Pallbearer. But that association is short lived as the band dips into mucky, grimy doom, complete with bowels-buried growls that sound like they emanate from the deepest woes of humankind. Strings are layered in, and the harsh vocals push their way over the carnage to express emotions some people are too timid to bring to the surface. Before the song ends, there’s a flourish of black metal thunder that rises up and fulfills anyone’s penchant for violence, then it’s off to clean wails and bellowing madness that shake your insides.

“Engravings” is the miniature song, coming in at a paltry 9:37, and its slowly drummed intro leads into simmering feedback and noise, then into tortured singing that sounds half emotive, half graveside confessional covering all of life’s wrong turns. The song reaches a spacious, cavernous doom, letting the band explore the surroundings, but eventually the punishment returns, massive growls pick up where the story left off, and a savage, yet airy atmosphere envelops the dirge.

The closing title track is the monstrous epic of the bunch, clocking in at a massive 20:35, though it never feels nearly that long. It opens with some liquidy guitar work reminiscent of deathrock before strings join the scene and the gory blackness oozes through the surface. The song is both melodic and threatening, hinting that it could go off the rails at any moment, then all of a sudden, it does in such a massive way that it might knock you for a loop. The drums reach a D-beat assault, the rest of the band opens up and reveals their sharpened teeth, and the cut rips through a massive drape of black metal so thick that it’s blinding. Eventually the storming subsides, but heavy rains of sorrow, agony, and panic remain. The closing few minutes of searing drone feel like the perfect way to collect yourself, trudge up the hill in the mud, and hide yourself away for as long as it takes.

Lycus’ debut is a depressive triumph that reaches all those nerves affected when pain and self-loathing are at their worst, and that message comes across not just in the words, but in the music as well. You feel this psychological heaviness weighing down, you never question the motives, and you simply go through this black catharsis with the band because you really have no choice but to participate so you don’t miss out on every drop of sweat and blood. “Tempest” is a monster of a first statement, one that should shake the doom world the fuck awake.

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