Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lykauges - Under the Veil of Depression (2010)

Lykauges is a fairly new one-man black metal act out of Greece, having released only a pair of demos and a split before this full-length debut. But like a lot of driven, productive individuals,Ghrundal's got himself a very interesting atmosphere which seems to fall somewhat beneath the 'depressive' category, with an appreciation for a healthy infusion of nihilism. This is important, for in establishing the lack of worth and meaning in an individual's struggles, one can essentially 'reset' themselves, and from the void can be birthed a refreshing sound, a seeking of both truth and a recall towards the emptiness.

In the case of Under the Veil of Depression, this philosophy manifests into a glorious and 'different' sound for the genre. Most bands that I consider part of the 'depressive' sub-genre of black metal have an extremely grimy, lo-fi sound like razors scraped across wrists, often accompanied by lush bank of synthesizers and almost ALWAYS the realm of Weakling-esque squawking rasps. Instead, Lykauges uses a more simple atmosphere, almost all guitar, with the bass and drums serving only as an adequate mooring for the expression of the axe phrasing. This is not 'well produced', so have no fear, it's still rather raw, but it's enamored of a vibrant, rawness that doesn't need to cut open your eardrum to lull you towards the shadows of its wooded hills. Ghrundal's vocals are a repressed barking which feels like a halfway point between countrymen Rotting Christ's Takis Solis and thrash legend Coroner's Ron Royce.

Under the Veil of Depression consists of eight hymnals towards the void within us all, several of which err on the lengthy side. Tracks like "Depressive Requiem for the Lost Ones" and "Threnody and Sadness" tends towards a thrusting momentum embellished with only a few alternating rhythms, though the shorter pieces like "Horizons" and "Passion for Death" are moody, mid-paced and regal, and some of the most gripping of the release. As for the more extensive fare, the clean tones of "Searching for Nothing" ramble briefly into a razor-fine atmosphere, like a clear river that suddenly passes the scene of a battlefield, its banks and waters there stained with a blood that mingles in the scales of the fish and feathers of the waterfowl. At the 7 minute mark (out of 10), Ghrundal breaks out an extremely simplistic 3-chord rock rhythm which lasts the remainder of the track, with little variation. By the end, it does begin to dull, but the journey to this point was gripping enough.

Other tracks I might note here are "The Longest Journey", which seems a haunting and solemn tribute to fallen Greek landmark. As if, by studying the ancient architecture, the world of the past itself beckoned you into its deeper mysteries. "The Great Day of Wrath" has a melodic flow to its opening rhythm that recalls mid-period Rotting Christ, and though cool, the riff goes far too long before the vocals arrive, again with only a few deviations from the central rhythm. If I can ascribe any fault to Lykauges, it is simply the need for a few more change-ups or alternations in the writing. But I have certainly heard far worse when it comes to monotony in black metal, and to be fair, half the album consists of shorter tracks which never rhyme off enough to madden you.

In the end, a promising and successful debut which crafts a solid series of columns. Upon this, I can imagine only the vaulted heights of stone that Ghrundal can place, and the stories that could be told through the silent majesty of this nation's rich fabric. If you enjoy other Greek black metal such as Nocternity, Kawir or the earlier, raw Rotting Christ (ala Non Serviam or Thy Mighty Contract), why not give this a spin?

Highlights: Horizons, Passion for Death, Searching for Nothing

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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