Lycus mix darker elements into their powerful funeral doom powers on gargantuan ‘Chasms’

LycusThe caverns of misery and depression are visited often by many people. Some suffer under the shadows of mystery, with no one ever knowing the torment that encompasses them, while others bleed darkness right out in the open. Either way, it’s a state that is not easy to deal with, and often the struggle is massive.

Listening to Lycus always makes me think of navigating through my own woes. Having bouts with depression and, most often, anxiety often makes existence feel like a cold, oppressive storm that chills my bones, and immersing myself in this band’s music can provide an oddly comforting territory where I can confront what ails me and get a better understanding of what lurks inside my own head. I doubt that was Lycus’ purpose when putting together any of their records, including their excellent new one “Chasms,” but that’s what I’ve always taken away. It’s easy to slap the funeral doom tag on them, as it fits quite well, but there is a lot more to their puzzle than that, and they find a way to make suffering seem cinematic.

Lycus coverOn this new album, Lycus branch out even further past the sub-genre boundaries in which they’re often placed. Death and doom always have been a part of their formula, but they bring in different shadows, sometimes even delving into deathrock (the sweeping cello work of the great Jackie Perez Gratz adds a thick wave of beauty) and other morose sounds. The vocals are a mix of gargantuan growl and tortured bellow, and the band–vocalist/guitarist Jackson Heath, guitarist Jonathan Nicosia, bassist Bret Tardiff, and drummer/vocalist Trevor Deschryver–sounds as fluent and tight as ever before, bringing their visions into even greater focus.

“Solar Chamber” gets us started, a 10:41 journey that opens with sticky, cold melodies and mournful tones that feel like a hundred tons on your chest. Deep singing starts, later cut by gurgling growls and vicious shrieks, and the pace rumbles a little faster for a bit. The track later goes back to muddy trails that lead right into the fog, while the song manages to get even heavier and then sort of elegant. The monstrous growls creep back in as the final minutes cause your nostrils to freeze. The 13:05 title cut follows, and it floats on water when it begins, with strings joining the fray, growls creeping, and formless wails sitting in the background. The track gets crushing and thrashing, with growls mixed with detached singing, and the pace keeps clobbering as it goes. The guitar work glimmers, the strings trickle, and the final moments bleed away.

“Mirage” is the shortest cut of the bunch at 7:26, and it unleashes a frosty wind as it begins, feeling like it’s sticking you in the middle of a rainy, thick forest to wander endlessly. The setting often is uneasy, with the cello churning, harsh shrieks exploding, and carnage setting in and staying for the duration. It’s one of the band’s most aggressive songs to date, and it’s massive and unforgiving before relenting in the final moments. Closer “Obsidian Eyes” goes 12:22, and it has guitars boiling and giving off steam, melting away some of the frost, while the band hits a slow-burning pace, the growls rupture, and the strings moisten the ground. Guitars rise up and glaze over the cut, with the tempo mauling, deep growls generating power, and clean calls working into that, providing a haunting feel you can’t shake. The torturous punishment keeps dealing blows, rolling into the mire and dragging you along until its grip suddenly, mysteriously releases you.   

Lycus already are a leader in the funeral doom world, and “Chasms” will further cement the stranglehold they have on personal darkness. The added textures they splash here make their sound even more intoxicating, and they keep getting more interesting and captivating. Taking a deep swim with Lycus’ music and your personal demons might not seem alluring on the surface, but doing so might make you resurface a stronger person.

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