Review Summary: Oakland's doom metal quartet are far from amateur with their debut, but also far from perfect.
A funeral doom quartet out of Oakland, California, Lycus dropped their debut full-length “Tempest
” just this past July. Comprised of only three tracks but still surpassing the forty-minute mark, “Tempest
” is an album with more twists and turns than a ride through Boston. With a slow, almost droning pace, Lycus' latest effort delivers wrathful growls, sombre guitar passages, and startling drum fills that are in keeping with the best of funeral doom's heavier side. The production leaves a faint operatic touch, adding greatly to the mood and making this one of the more enjoyable doom metal records I've listened to this year.
Though the speed of the tracks on “Tempest
” can and will spike upwards in BPM, the typical guitar tempos are fairly slow and steady. There is almost no change in state between the standard slow passages and the more unusual fast-paced sections, but there are plenty of different tones and notes being played by Lycus' sole guitarist. Ranging from high notes worthy of inclusion in a melodic solo to crunchy low riffs reminiscent of old school death metal, the guitar-work on “Tempest
” casts an eerie mood on the rest of the mix, setting the stage on which the rest of the band to perform.
A band wherein all members contribute to the vocal mix is rare, but Lycus happens to be one such case. The prospect of four people covering the role of vocalist might sound a little problematic on paper - having up to four different kinds of voices in one musical environment certainly seems to spell chaos - but the vocals on “Tempest
” are sparse enough that the variety is one of their best traits. From the deep, operatic clean singing to the low, death-like growls, the diversity in the vocal tracks all share one common element - emotion. The throats of Lycus bellow some very heartfelt vocals, despite their verbal message often being unintelligible without a lyric sheet, and the emotions within “Tempest
” range from anger and sadness to desolation and emptiness. The vocalists might not be pneumonically-impressive or classically-proficient, but they got the job done well nonetheless.
Possibly the most doom-y and drone-y aspect of “Tempest
” are its drum tracks. While the very standard (and very slow) snare hits and occasional bass kick are par for the course, the faster moments present in the middle of "Coma Burn" incorporate a much more powerful kind of drum-work. It's in these moments in which the drums both change the pace in a startling but welcome manner and evoke a vicious mood not unlike the standard fare of death metal. When the tempos are up, the drums are more than satisfying, but when things start to slow down, they become disproportionately boring compared to the rest of the mix. Hopefully, the men of Lycus will find some way to change that for the better the next time they write an album.
While it may be a slow release, and the length of each track can make it difficult to get through, Lycus deliver a promising sound and execution with their debut full-length. They've certainly caught my eye with “Tempest
”, and I look forward to the band's evolution as they move on to newer releases. For what it's worth, the initial sound that Lycus has crafted with this album will no-doubt appeal to fans of heavier funeral doom, but I doubt they'll find a large fan base beyond that niche - not until they continue to build upon their solid foundations.