Lycus- Tempest

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, July 29, 2013

I have always been a fan of doom and funeral doom that were able to create expansive and oppressive soundscapes that sucked me in and kept me captivated for long periods of time. The genre continues to be one that has new bands popping up on a regular basis, but output tends to be hit or miss when it comes to how engaging the material is. Oakland’s Lycus is one of the relatively newer acts, as they formed in 2008 and released a demo in 2011. Now they have followed it up with a full length debut entitled Tempest. Spread across three tracks, the group plays funeral doom with the occasional faster moment that brings some black and death metal elements into the overall sound. It doesn’t quite manage to reach the same level as some of the best in the genre, but Lycus has a lot of potential and seem to be hinting at directions that could help make them more distinguishable in the future.

Early on Lycus sounds like a cross between funeral doom and traditional doom, as the slower riffs on opening song “Coma Burn” aren’t quite as overwhelmingly heavy as one might expect and there are some clean vocals mixed in with the growls that have a Candlemass vibe. It initially seems as though this is the direction the band is going to go in for the entirety of Tempest, but a little over halfway into the track they suddenly pick up speed considerably and touch upon faster paced riffs that have a black metal tonality. There are some additional times where this happens, and some of the other fast sections take on more of a death/doom sound rather than sticking solely with a chilling black metal style. While the mixture of these three styles works quite well, it didn’t feel as though any of them were explored to their furthest point and as a result Tempest doesn’t reach the same level of breathtaking atmosphere that listeners often experience from the best albums in this genre. I definitely like what the instrumentalists are doing throughout this release and there are some cool touches like the prominent violin arrangements on the title track. But the melodic sections don’t seem to expand as far outward as they could and the faster breaks could be expanded upon just a bit more to give Lycus a truly distinguishable sound.

As previously mentioned, clean singing is a prominent element throughout Tempest and gives the songs a bit of a traditional doom metal feel when mixed alongside the harsher growls and screams. The vocal arrangements are one element of Lycus’ material that I really enjoyed, as there’s a lot more variation and depth to the performance than I was expecting. A lot of doom acts have a tendency to pick a clean or harsh style and then keep it at the same pitch for the entirety of a song, which can become repetitive pretty quickly when the song spans 10-20 minutes. Not only did Lycus’ vocals have variation, but each of their singers delivers the type of power and intensity that is needed for this type of music. This is one area that doesn’t need any major improvement, and it was also great to see that Tempest was mixed in a way that gave the harsh and clean ranges the chance to break through.

Maybe I am being a bit harsh on this one considering that it was an album I still found myself going back to multiple times, but this is one of those bands where I really feel like the best is still to come. They’ve proven with Tempest that they have the ability to write lengthy tracks without losing focus but there’s a good deal of growing room left for each of the styles showcased in Lycus’ material. If you’re into doom this release is still worth checking out without a doubt, but if these guys can continue to expand upon the base they’ve built here I have a feeling album number two might be the one that will blow me away.

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