Gloomy minor-key meanders

Lycanthia’s previous album was recorded 13 years ago. Since then, they have changed vocalists four times, had five different drummers, five guitarists and various other members pass through the ranks.

Even the ‘Within the Walls’ EP in 2006 was followed by about five line-up changes. You’d think it would be difficult for a band to stay true with a turbulent history like that, but founder Lee Tassaker and his other long-time colloborators, guitarists Giv Gariano and Stephen Mikulic, have maintained Lycanthia’s focus on the type of old-school doom-death that stretches out across almost an  hour on Oligarchy.

This is a darker, heavier and more mature release than that first long ago album. The music benefits from less orchestration and Tassaker’s much developed and more menacing growl and Vanessa Black and Megan Robins’ ringing voices add a level of melancholia to Lycanthia’s gloomy minor-key meanders. Violins sawing sadly in the background enhance the mood further, and titles like “The Essential Components of Misery” leave no doubt that Oligarchy is a journey through the despair and despondency similar to obvious touchstones like early My Dying Bride and Liv Kristine-era Theatre of Tragedy. If there’s a criticism of this, it’s that Lycanthia has a tendency to sound too much like those influences, and rarely, if ever, moves outside the constraints of that sound and style. Purists will be pleased with this, as it doesn’t seem like the band will suddenly turn into an electronic rock band anytime soon – something we can all be glad about. In fact, those yearning for a modern album with that classic doom-death mood could do much worse than Oligarchy. On the other hand, while Lycanthia is very, very good at this, they don’t bring anything new to it – again, however, a selling point for those who like this music left untainted. There is room for variation though. “Time Feeds These Wounds” is, somewhat ironically, rather more upbeat and probably comes along just in time to break up the dirge-paced plod of the other tracks which otherwise tend to make Oligarchy a touch monotonous as it creeps over the fifty minute mark.

Oligarchy is a solid release, justifying Lee Tassaker’s commitment to Lycanthia over the last 16 years. Diehard fans of this moribund genre of metal will find plenty to like. For others, it might be too lacking in real variation and innovation for them to see the voyage through to the end.

1. The Essential Components of Misery
2. Eternity…
3. Forgone
4. Ablaze the Wheel Turns
5. Despondency in Crescendo
6. Time Feeds These Wounds
7. Hair of the Beast
8. From Ancestral Lands