This is the second part of a two-part post about new music that swallowed me up last night. By blind chance, all four of the songs I heard sound like granite must feel, sitting on your chest or coming down in an avalanche on your head. Part 1 (here) dealt with Geryon and Hollow Leg. This one focuses on Lycus (Oakland) and Ortega (The Netherlands).
In addition to delivering crushing music, all four of the bands featured in this two-part post bring us striking cover art for their new releases. As you can see, the debut album by Lycus, Tempest, is adorned with the awesome painted art of the Italian madman Paolo Girardi (go past the jump to see more of the album art). Tempest is scheduled for release by 20 Buck Spin on July 9 (digitally and on CD/LP).
I haven’t yet carved out time to listen to the album, and nothing from it is yet available for public streaming, but I did check out the first song from the band’s Demo MMXI. That demo was released two years ago by Graceless Recordings (run by Mike Meacham of LOSS) and on vinyl by The Flenser Records, and it’s a name-your-price download on Bandcamp.
“Resonance In Aether” is a glacial calamity, a slow-moving monolith of funeral doom with a thick, vibrating low end and a transfixing melody. The vocals are of the style I like most in doom — deep as caverns, jagged, and heartless. The bass booms right through your mid-section, the drums rumble like boulders, and the riffs are magnetic. I’m now really looking forward to Tempest, but this demo is a choice find in its own right. You can hear it below.
UPDATE! After I put this post to bed, I discovered a video that went up on YouTube today of Lycus performing the title track to Tempest live in Oakland late last month. It features violinist Christa Schmidt, and it’s damned cool, both mesmerizing and catastrophic. It includes some different vocal styles than what I heard on the demo — adding black-metal style shrieks and clean baritone. I’ve embedded it after the Bandcamp player.
ANOTHER UPDATE! Since the last update, I’ve discovered that the image at the top of this post is only part of the Paolo Girardi painting. I’ve also now seen the layout of the interior, which was done by Kevin Gan Yuen of Sutekh Hexen (who apparently also contributes musically to the album’s closing moments) — and all of this looks just amazing, a beautiful marriage of music and art. (Click the images below to see larger versions of each of them.)
After listening to that Lycus track, I moved on to the last of the songs I heard last night. It comes from a Dutch band named Ortega, who e-mailed us about it. The song is an album-length, 18+ minute work named The Serpent Stirs, and it was released in a variety of cool single-sided vinyls as well as cassette last December. It’s also now available digitally on Bandcamp, where ordering info for the physical editions can also be found. The killer artwork is by Marald.
As songs go, this one obviously demands a lot of your time, but it richly rewards the investment. It truly conveys the sense of a deliberate, unhurried journey, painting a changing shadowed landscape with powerful music. As you’ve anticipated by now, it has a massive low end, and when the song’s thunderous riffs come down, you feel it in your bones. The rhythms are physically compelling, and the vocals scarring.
Eerie guitar atmospherics and mournful melodies, both grief-stricken and beautiful, move through the music like wraiths. The long psychedelic guitar instrumental jam in the song’s mid-section is worth the trip all by itself — and you’ll be tripping by the time it ends. The drumming is also excellent and keeps the music lively even when it’s flowing like sludge.
You can easily lose yourself in The Serpent Stirs. It coils and uncoils, slithers and crawls, and ultimately will swallow you whole.