LychgateIf like me you have the habit of hanging around graveyards you will no doubt have encountered a Lychgate before and even walked under one. Simply put Lych is an old English word for corpse and gate… well duh. It is the gate the corpse is carried through before entering the lych way on its last journey to the grave.  Lychgate is also the name of a new band but one that if you dwell in deep darkness should have ties that are familiar to you. For a start vocals and guitars are provided by Greg Chandler renowned producer and also frontman of Esoteric. Bassist Aran is half of Lunar Aurora and Trist, drummer T. J. F. Vallely is from Omega Centauri and if I am not mistaken guitarist Vortigern has done time in The One, Archaicus and Spearhead. That’s quite a heavy mix and one that leaves you in no doubt this is going to deliver the goods as far as extremity is concerned.

Even the opening of The Inception is heavy and austere in a stifling orchestral setting that reeks of terror and dread, leaving no doubt the funeral is about to begin. ‘Resentment’ does so slowly with a fearful doom like slowness that sends shivers down the spine before going into some skewed dynamics reminiscent of Morbid Angel, Virus and Ved Buens Ende. Vocals are familiar and gargle nastily behind the mix which also is naturally Chandler’s work and contains a thick grimy bombast about it. Musically it is difficult to pinpoint and you could not call this death, black or doom metal but a mix of them all, add acid to that too as a carnival funfair sound lurches into the backdrop of the song giving it a really unsettling and hallucinatory Carnival Of Souls etched sheen. Are we dead yet or are we dreaming? Wretched screams take the vocals into other dimensions on ‘Against The Paradoxical Guild’ and the twisting turning fretwork to me is somewhat reminiscent of Opeth at their best which is no bad thing at all. Hitting a gallop the drums take off and some complex musicianship works well with the distempered vocals before it breaks into some lush acoustic fretwork. There is lots going on here beneath the surface and this certainly needs a fair few listens before it gets through but when it does the majestic melody that the song trends into is quite (for want of a better word) sublime.

Carnival sounds, battering drums and yells see the short ‘In Self Ruin’ really going for the throat and literally swarming with ferocious riffs and a screaming solo amidst it all. Add to that some ominous organ work and this is a grim sermon and a funeral descent to hell itself. Melody again rules over the aggressive snarl of ‘Sceptre To Control The World’ reminding partly of Esoteric which is quite natural but also in places Opeth and Emperor too. We may well be ticking a fair few boxes here but they are all the cream of the crop and wrapped up in a way that is quite unique. ‘Dust Of A Gun Barrel’ is a bit of a calm slow burner with some lovely glistening guitar work in it along with sudden flurries of speed and an underlying pitched up progressive melody with a touch of latter era Blut Aus Nord about it. Final nail in the coffin of this rather imaginative piece of work ‘When Scorn Can Scourge No More’ has an almost jolly bounce about it, well if it were not for the howling vocals it could be looked upon as such.

Compared to Esoteric Lychgate is a much more accessible affair and is over in a time that they can wring just one song out in. It made a nice change to hear Chandler working within something different and the mix of talents here gels very well together. It’s a shame we cannot claim a new force of British metal due to the European basis of the line-up and it makes me wonder if this has the chance of being a live proposition. That aside this is a slice of darkness well worth checking out.

(8/10 Pete Woods)