Album Review: LYCHGATE An Antidote For The Glass Pill
Formed in the U.K. in 2011, Lychgate was spearheaded by Vortigern (vocals, organ, keyboards) and T.J. Valleley (drums), both men who have plied their trade in such acts as Orpheus, Spearhead, and Macabre Omen. The time was well spent, because after a solid self-titled 2013 debut, Lychgate return in 2015 with An Antidote For the Glass Pill on Finnish label Blood Music. To build upon their style of left-field, high concept black metal, the boys have once again enlisted Greg Chandler (Esoteric) for vocals/guitars, but bring in T.K. Webb (Ancient Ascendant) on bass guitar, as well as a contribution from S.D. Lindsley on guitar.
As much Liszt as Limbonic Art, Lychgate combine the avant-garde leanings of unconventional time signatures, classical music, but build each level onto a harsh black metal foundation. For this second album, the U.K. troupe has crafted their songs largely around the prominence of the pipe organ. What results is an eldritch, surrealistic listening experience which also pays great heed to the cinematic. Moods upon the album vary from the cerebral to the positively uncomfortable, forcing the listener to hold on tight and plunge wherever its authors have decided to take them.
For black metal of the more straight ahead variety, look no further than the blistering 'I Am Contempt,' which goes for the throat, but never fails to lose a sort of manic classical flavoring, as the song is peppered underneath with pipe organ and keyboards aplenty. Never at the expense of the growling guitar and the percussive accompaniment, the unusual arrangements are instead perfectly synthesized. Lychgate may just be the most 'weird' heavy band to incite a circle pit you might ever hear. Webb's bass guitar performance reminds one of the arrangements in Dream Theater, yet the black metal parts are so much heavier than say, what we may find in Arcturus or Solefald. Both of those acts are amazing and unique, but in an effort to form a label for Lychgate, fans will be inclined to group them with that left of center ilk of brilliant bands who followed in the steps of Ved Buens Ende and filled the blackness of the genre with their own spectrum, their own slant. With An Antidote For The Glass Pill, Lychgate gathers up the strange in an embrace of furious black metal, never truly letting go despite the classical influence and less conventional arrangements.
On "A Principle of Seclusion," the organ acts as the skeleton of the song in a rousing, building swirl of classical music gone metal, until around 1:30 in, it sounds like Deathspell Omega took over the proceedings. Not a rip off whatsoever, but the blackened storm and dungeon vocals bring to mind such cavernous abyssal moans as can be found on the darkest of black metal albums leeching their way into the world. Lychgate keep it their own by slowing down and taking unexpected turns down the labyrinthine tunnels of their own imaginations. They allow the blast to get under the listener's skin, but before anyone gets comfortable they are spinning out their own web of entangled yet natural sounds. Your head will spin, but you will enjoy the ride.
"Deus Te Videt" is massively enjoyable, with a chanted clean vocal and almost martial cadence, which is then t-boned by a worthy blasting section that tests the nimble fingers of Vortigern as the keys and organs race to keep up. As is the habit of a few of their compositions, Lychgate allows the song to fade into quiet interludes of ticking, dripping repetitions and faraway voices. This fires the imagination of the listener, truly placing them into Lychgate's ensorcelled world.
"Letter XIX" may be the most uncomfortable listen, in a good way. It begins with a jilted, anxious keyboard/organ combo, and features some marvelous drumming. A musician's special, it nevertheless will make even an unschooled listener feel like they're lost in a carnival of distorted mirrors, whispers of nightmares haunting their steps while phantoms enshroud their sight. Bizarre, creative, and yet replete with a menace that is not at all contrived.
"The Illness Named Imagination" features an almost jazz drum and organ breakdown, with a suite of organ solos and cymbal crashing which turns into a circus of grotesques captured in sound. Some clean vocals revolve us closer to the world that Arcturus and Ulver helped construct. Here Lychgate show a massive understanding of dynamics and songwriting. Yet the brash virtuoso playing remains. One has to believe that Wagner would love this, were he alive to hear it today.
An Antidote For The Glass Pill, all in all, is an extremely rewarding listen, rich and with depth of feeling. Strong throughout, it is perhaps the back half of the album which truly stuns, as "An Acousmatic Guardian" with its haunting piano midsection, and "My Fate To Burn Forever" with still more black metal meets classical adroitness, undoubtedly prove.
Ending on a similar three minute outro similar to the intro which begins it, the listener will want to roll that giant rock up to the summit of the hill again and again. Unlike Sisyphus, to whom the final song is an ode (wondrous clean vocal here similar in style to <Code>) replaying An Antidote For The Glass Pill will never be burdensome, but instead, automatic.