Lychgate - The Contagion in Nine Steps
Blood Music
Progressive Black/Doom
6 songs (42:11)
Release year: 2018
Reviewed by Goat

It's been a while since I've had an opportunity to promote British metal, but the news of a new album from Evoken and Acherontas-linked oddballs Lychgate was too good to miss. Where past Lychgate albums were closer to black metal, this is freer, looser, almost theatrical in a dark, dreamy way. The church organ is still very much a vital part of the band's sound, but it's superseded by moments driven by piano and vocals as much as everything else, while the closest vibe for certain tracks is that of a particularly disfigured funeral doom. It's something of a frustrating listen initially, not least for the wide variety in vocals which range from the expected growls to epic clean singing, but thinking of The Contagion... as more of a doom album than a black metal one definitely helps tie things together. If it wasn't for these clear doom and black strains that run through this particular virus, Lychgate would have made a progressive metal album - a particularly unique and original one, sure, but one belonging in prog's tentacled embrace.

Opener Republic is particularly unwelcoming, starting immediately with the church organs and leading to a discordant and almost jazzy mix with abstract guitars and vocals, both harsh and clean, complete with piano towards the mid-point! It's confusing and downright avant-garde, not seeming to settle into something resembling a song even with the clean sung sections, the sheer technicality of the rhythm section alone enough to overwhelm towards the end. Unity of Opposites is a little more structured, post-metal rhythms fitting the clean vocals better, while the guitars' various little trills and frills feel more connected to the central song rather than randomly floating off of their own accord. Atavistic Hypnosis, the longest piece present, is one of the best, starting as funeral doom drenched with extra touches of odd melody not least from the organ, even the switches in vocals to clean singing and manic screams not spoiling this cohesion. The following Hither Comes the Swarm speeds this pace up a little to form a doom/death fusion backed by tinkling piano that gradually takes the lead, disturbingly whimsical even before the slablike guitar riffs return.

It's not always an easy album to enjoy, much less love. The clean vocals in The Contagion, for example, are downright obnoxious and sit uneasily beside Greg Chandler's funeral doom grunts, which take up much of the rest of the song, and the music box-style melody that it ends with feels even more out of place. Several listens in a row also rather exhausts the album, as the songs can feel a little samey, as well-played as they undoubtedly are. A bit of a step down from the first two albums, then, but still of interest to those looking for originality in their extreme metal - and of course, fans of the church organ.

Killing Songs :
Atavistic Hypnosis
Goat quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Lychgate that we have reviewed:
Lychgate - Also sprach Futura reviewed by Andy and quoted no quote
Lychgate - An Antidote for the Glass Pill reviewed by Charles and quoted 90 / 100
Lychgate - Lychgate reviewed by Charles and quoted 88 / 100
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