The touch of romantic, atmospheric doom spreads far and is not synonymous with the cold rain cobbled streets of Yorkshire even if its frozen fronds spread from there. In fact I am sure the climate could not be much further removed as we are swept into the violin etched caress of this heartfelt and lament filled band from Australia where apparently they are one of the oldest surviving doom acts down under. Releases have not been that prolific from this sextet whose last album ‘Myriad’ saw the gloom of day way back in 1999. There has only been one EP between the two albums ‘Within The Walls’ in 2006, so if the band are as unknown to you as they are me that is no surprise.
We are lulled into things with the first lengthy number ‘The Essential Components of Misery’ the title of which should certainly give you a clue of what to expect. This is a misery serenade for sure but it is also a rather beautiful one with an almost neo-classical feel to it, far removed from metal per se. The violin and acoustic guitars are left to weep away and the vocal interplay between beauty and beast are consuming and beguiling in equal measures. Apparently there are two female vocalists here with violinist Vanessa Black and keyboardist Megan Robins both contributing and Leo Tassaker taking us to the darker masculine side.
The album is quite dense I have to admit and it is one that due to the lightness of the instrumentation you really need to concentrate otherwise attention will wander. It is not one that breaks into a sweat apart from occasionally when the leonine vocals go for the throat; it is an album that drenches in misery and yearning evolving at a rich and dreamy flow. A sudden jagged razor sharp guitar tone heralds ‘Ablaze The Wheel Turn’ with some epic, strident sounding female vocals clamouring in on the sorrowful harmony. It is here where the male vocals do that aforementioned bite and really going for the throat in complete contrast to the music itself but working well as an opposing force. Lycanthia is not a bad name considering his somewhat beastly roars which are probably the defining force putting this in any ‘metal’ realm!
These Dark Symphonies remind very much of some of the bands from that now defunct label like Autumn Tears and Rain Fell Within, sadly neither of which are still around. If that is the sort of band you too fondly remember this is very much going to be on your wavelength. With songs stretching anything up to the near ten minute mark and overall it being a fairly lengthy running time it is an album that you are going to have to work with to get the most out of though and is not for the casual musical flicker through. The other thing that struck me amidst the doom fuelled essence and tolling bells of ‘Despondency In Crescendo’ is that this could easily be an album conceived a couple of decades ago. It has that feel about it, almost timeless and refusing to bow to any modern conventions. Favourite number for me is ‘Hair Of The Beast’ actually one of the shortest numbers. It has more definition of melody and is quirky as it twists and turns and it makes me wonder if perhaps more is less. Possibly this one is a bit more upbeat than others too though which could explain it and to properly drown in doom it needs to be a lengthy miserable experience.
The album has caused a bit of a paradox on the whole as although it has not blown me away by any means it has worked hard at getting through to me and I was loathe not to keep coming back for more listens and attempt to chip below the surface and feel the music and emotion more. I would not say that this is the defining work that Lycanthia are capable of and it is entirely up to them if they work at upping that with more consistent future releases. Still it can’t be that easy to spread doom and gloom to a place that we would normally associate with being all sunny and they have certainly managed to do that admirably to me over on the other side of the world where it is much easier to translate.
(7/10 Pete Woods)