Lykathea Aflame - Elvenefris
Obscene Productions
Progressive Brutal Death Metal/Grindcore
11 songs (1:12:13)
Release year: 2000
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

There’s one obscure band out there sure to get sighs of recognition from experienced Death Metalheads, a band that released one album and then vanished into the nether regions of the underground like some twisted messiah, promising to one day return but leaving its followers eternally disappointed. The Czech geniuses behind Lykathea Aflame may have set the ball rolling in their earlier incarnation, Appalling Spawn, but there’s something so smooth and perfect about Elvenefris that it’s hard not to regard it as a classic. Imagine Cryptopsy’s frantic masterpiece None So Vile given an atmospheric Eastern makeover, softer, more melodic parts added and generally progged up without losing a bit of its violence or power, although it isn’t as devastating a listen. You need patience to really get to know this album, as the mixture of atmospheric lightness and furious grinding can be rather overwhelming at first, but after a listen or two the sheer esoteric value of it all becomes clear.

It’s one of those albums that knocks me off my feet pretty much every time I hear it, firstly for the expert dynamics that take you from hellish fury to heavenly melody in a single track (Flowering Entities, for instance) but also for the sheer level of experimentation, often very subtle and hidden. The way that To Give is an old-school Thrashy Death Metal anthem backed by what sounds like an Eastern orchestra, for instance, following in Cynical footsteps but in another dimension entirely, or the utterly gorgeous and glorious atmospheric build-up that opens On The Way Home, leading to a furious torrent of Death Metal menace. It’s hard to take individual tracks completely apart, since they’re all complex and layered bursts of experimental brutality that take time and patience to truly fathom.

Fans typically praise the lyrics here, and yes, the philosophical themes undertaken by the band are well represented in lyrical terms, although you wouldn’t think that the growls here are saying anything other than ‘ROOAAAR’. Of course, the clean vocals are fantastic too, for their rarity if nothing else, providing moments of genuine spiritual calm amidst the otherwise intense maelstrom. Yet first and foremost, the rhythm section-driven ferocity of the most violent parts is what draws you in and keeps you gripped, the gentle Prog Metal of A Step Closer the eye in the Death Metal storm, as proven by the ensuing blastfest that opens the nine-minute An Old Man And A Child. Eleven-minute finale Walking In The Garden Of Ma’at is a synth and birdsong piece, ambient, gentle and salutary, doubtless an influence on Mithras and others who use keyboards to such sledgehammer effect, but it serves as a good ending piece and reminds you that the band are as good at softness as they are at brutality.

Whatever you listen to this album for, whether the eastern melody or the western heaviness lives on in your memory, there’s enough to keep you happy for a long time, and Elvenefris is a must-purchase for those with Death Metal interests that lie outside the genre’s usual sphere. A sequel has long been promised, yet shows no sign of incarnation – stay loyal by reminding yourself why you joined this religion in the first place.

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Goat quoted 91 / 100
Vrechek quoted 70 / 100
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