Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lycus: Tempest (2013)

”Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises” –Shakespeare, The Tempest

Oakland funeral doomsters Lycus released a demo in 2011 that got some fairly positive press (including at Full Metal Attorney). Apparently that was enough to grab the attention of 20 Buck Spin, who released their proper debut full-length yesterday.

Tempest continues the band’s slowed-down version of early Swallow the Sun, blending morose lead guitars and equally hopeless clean vocals with a solid underpinning of steady, heavy riffage. The production is the most remarkably different aspect of the release. Where the demo had a strong, immediate, straight-forward approach, Tempest sounds distant and cloaked in reverb, a style many funeral doom bands tend toward. Just as with their demo, the album has three songs, but here the final product clocks in at 41 minutes instead of 25.

Between the less distinct production and the much longer runtime, Lycus drove themselves straight into generic mediocrity. Anyone in the world could play a handful of rather solid riffs for 40 minutes with this kind of sound at this tempo, and it could be passed off as acceptable funeral doom. It takes a lot more to be exceptional. Where is the crippling emotional weight of Loss, the tension and release of Evoken, or the pure suffocating riff-mastery of Ahab? If they’re here, I can’t find them.

The only saving graces of Tempest are those rare occasions where they break the mold, as when they switch to black metal on the title track. But even that song, which begins as the strongest on the record, eventually becomes its biggest dead weight when it drags on twice as long as needed.

I gave this album plenty of chances to convince me of its worth. It’s simply not up to the task.

The Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars

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