Lychgate – The Contagion in Nine Steps

[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

I like it when albums fight me, refusing to give up their secrets until they’re stuck in my head. Such is the case with England’s Lychgate, an act who count Ennio Morricone and Autopsia among their influences; oh yes, they operate in a musical sphere of metal which some refer to as extreme. What this means is anyone’s guess, I leave the pigeonholing to others because what I can tell you about them is that they have no limits with regard to what they write. Time signatures? They make their own.

Take that as the gauntlet being thrown down, things only grow more complex and unorthodox as this plays out.

They keep their tempos generally mid to low range with some vocals you’ll just have to hear to believe, going from the guttural to the angelic in a span of seconds. ‘The Contagion in Nine Steps’ is both a statement about the progression of civilization and the insidious nature of crowd behavior; if you don’t think these two are linked then I suggest you take a long, hard look at this world we’re all passing through without any filters or distractions. Look, look into the heart of what we’re doing here, play this album while you do so if you must; the message is clear, the resolution undeniable.

While I’m on that subject, the numerous layers of sound which these four parse out is ridiculously difficult to keep track of; they like to build up a collection of them and then tear it all apart, utilizing free form jazz elements to transition from one section of a song to the next. It is up to the listener to make that jump with them, straddling the connective auditory tissue while also maintaining enough composure as to not fall into the abyss lapping hungrily below. The technical aspects of their compositional dexterity are the purview of those who find such things to be of interest, I only know how this release makes me feel, what thoughts it puts in my head.

Cajoled through constriction which leads to complete capitulation; all the best laid plans of man, his arrogant egotism exposed to the world. Lychgate are beyond the boundaries of anything metal I have yet encountered, the closest thing this pair of ears have heard to them would be Skin Chamber’s second album ’Trial’ back in 1993 and that’s pushing it. The emphasis on relentless acoustical misanthropy, wave after wave of society’s insecurities silkily deposited on the shores of the subconscious; the hooks cleave and out to sea you’re pulled….

There’s just something about the loping menace of “Hither Comes the Swarm” with it’s demented carnival/slaughter house atmosphere that continues luring me back in a vain attempt to perceive all of its myriad possibilities. I cannot, however, which should come as no surprise as this is less an album and more a ritual borne out of vitriolic precision riven by chaos.

LychgateThe Contagion in Nine Steps
Blood Music, BLOOD 204/205
LP/CD/Digital 2018

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