Ah, Funeral Doom. In a genre (metal), where accessibility is not really a consideration most of the time, Funeral Doom is an often overlooked and maligned subgenre (man I hate that word) due to the extremely long songs, and generally reallllllllllly slow pace of those same songs. However, I’m a sucker for it when it’s well done, and it is without any sense of hyperbole that I say that Lycus is by far the best current band doing it.
Let’s get this out of the way now; I will no doubt be referring to the band Asunder multiple times during this review. As the band I consider the benchmark for the genre, Asunder released two stellar full lengths, and a split with the also amazing Graves at Sea in their heyday. The glacial pace of their music allowed great emphasis on their unique combination of cello and guitar driven melody and thick, dirge filled riffs. With vocals alternating between pained clean vocals, Gregorian styled chants, and death growls, Asunder carved out a niche in my heart and captivated me from the moment I first heard them. As a result, I then explored the genre further. Nothing held my attention like Asunder, which wouldn’t have been a huge deal, IF ASUNDER DIDN’T BREAK UP AND BREAK MY HEART. For years after, I searched, and searched, and searched to no avail to find a band that grabbed me like they did. Loss almost did it, with their fantastic 2011 LP Despond, but it wasn’t until I first heard Lycus, and their phenomenal debut full length Tempest, that the Asunder shaped hole in my heart began to fill. Tempest was an amazing launching point for the band. It had EVERYTHING I had grown to love about Asunder, down to the cello and the Gregorian chants. Hell, like Asunder, the lion’s share of the vocals were done by the drummer. Were they a carbon copy of Asunder? Absolutely not. Did they reinvent the wheel completely? Also, absolutely not. Did I care? Not one bit. Tempest was one of my favorite albums of 2013, and hasn’t left my iPod since I first purchased it. What sets them apart from their contemporaries is the fact that they speed things up, and when doing so, tend to skew towards black metal at times. This is very well done, and most definitely fine by me. This is a band who stays in their wheelhouse, but has managed to make it a fairly large one while staying within the confines within the genre.
Chasms is not new ground for Lycus. Were I not so familiar with Tempest, I would likely find the songs on the two albums interchangeable. This is hardly a problem. Lycus knows what they do well, and damn, they’re doing it. At four songs and almost 44 minutes in length, this is not an album made for random play. Listening to the album in full, in it’s intended track order, is the way to go here. Jackie Perez Gratz plays cello on this, and for those unfamiliar, she also played cello on Asunder’s Works Will Come Undone, as well as fronting the stellar Graceyon, and playing session cello on more great albums than I can name without going on a tangent.
I recently caught Lycus live and was seriously blown away. I’ve been going to shows for….a long enough time that I don’t want to quantify it because that makes me feel old, but anymore, it’s impossible to get me out of the house on a whim to see a show because I am in fact, old. Lycus playing in town led me to immediately buy a ticket. Their set was heavily reliant on Chasms and that didn’t bother me one bit. They’re such a great band that a lack of familiarity with the material played did nothing to diminish my enjoyment of them.
In short, do you like Funeral Doom? Yes? Then listen to Chasms immediately. It’s easily one of the best releases the genre has ever had. It will in all likelihood be a top 5 release of 2016 for me.
Label: Relapse Records
For Fans Of: Asunder, Loss, Mournful Congregation, Tyranny, older Ahab, Skepticism