Somewhere, deep amid the thorny brambles of the metal world there exists a dimension of pure atmospherics. A place where some of the most talented acts in the metal world spend their days slow-cooking multiple genres in a cauldron of the ethereal. It’s deep within this dark side of the genre that Oakland’s Lycus consistently exist, emanating their unholy and unearthly brand of death doom, and in the process, have delivered possibly the first truly classic album of 2016.
Under the burning Summer sun of 2013, Lycus gifted us one of the heaviest, most brutal albums of that calendar year in Tempest. It was a simultaneously oppressive ad yet refreshing album that immediately put the rest of the doom metal scene on full notice. Now comes the follow-up album, Chasms, and where one might think this band couldn’t get any heavier, or any more melancholy, or any more surreal in their musical vision, Lycus have proven that be exactly the case.
Lycus at their very core seethe doom metal. Let that never be mistaken. But rarely has doom metal been taken to the riverbanks of so many other genres and baptized in the blood of their masters. Lycus create sonic visions of swirling vortexes where elements of death metal, black metal, shoegaze, post-metal, and others all mix and mingle and co-exist. Album opener, “Solar Chamber” and the track “Mirage” are both almost cut right in half by the frosted psychedelics of a cold blast of US black metal. The title track’s surrealism is fueled on shoegaze and post-metal aesthetics, lending it this sort of extra level of downtrodden gloominess throughout, accentuated by a bleak, yet passionate cello accompaniment. It might not have been possible for doom metal to sound any more hopeless and yet equally more beautiful all at the same time until now.
The album’s title is a fitting moniker in more than one way. In one respect Lycus can leave gaping holes in your soul if you let them. The finished product on this album is so stunningly epic, so powerfully gripping that it’s almost impossible not to be affected by it all. Yet those chasms can also allude to the profound difference is styles that Lycus continually weave into their music without allowing them to engulf their overall identity. They’ve mined those musical chasms and come back with fists full of sonic gold.
Chasms is out now via Relapse Records. You can experience the album in its entirety at the Lycus Bandcamp page.