The Contagion in Nine Steps
2018, Blood Music
An Antidote for the Glass Pill was one of my favourite releases of 2015. This one is better.
Lychgate is usually classed as a black metal band, and while there is certainly a heavy black element present, the band continues to push the envelope of what extreme metal can be. There is a strong pipe organ presence in many of the tracks, and the compositions don’t abide by any straightforward metal progression.
Like in much classical music, it’s not any kind of verse–chorus structure that binds the tracks together, but a repetition of motifs and colourings. The second and standout track “Unity of Opposites” is a prefect example, with the recognisable main theme returning at different points throughout a piece that is extremely diverse.
What is great on this album is the increased diversity of vocal styles, ranging from extreme metal screams and growls to more chant-like sections, as well as the occasional soaring, slightly raw, single voice. This is something that can safely be left to vocalist Greg Chandler, of Esoteric fame.
And perhaps it’s that influence too that led to a funeral doom track such as “Atavistic Hypnosis”, a track that, like the others, displays a strong influence from classical composition, not just in its piano and organ melodies, but also in the way the guitars accentuate the whole. Trust me, not many bands can pull this off.
I’m not going to give you a complete play-by-play, although the other tracks are definitely not inferior to these two. What you should know is that The Contagion in Nine Steps is the kind of album that can take your mind places where it would not usually venture. It’s dark, yes, but not oppressive, more fascinating than forbidding, an essential album for those who like their metal to be adventurous, ambitious, and uncompromising in its vision.