An Antidote for the Glass Pill, which we are grandly informed is Lychgate’s second album on the ‘Panopticon’ theme (whatever the hell that is), could quite easily be the work of a bunch of dreary black metal chancers screaming in a church with their heads up their collective arse. However, by the time we’re a minute into the carefully assembled soundscape that opens “Unto My Tempest” and the liberal use of church organ(!) reveals itself for the first time, it’s clear that cheap labelling isn’t appropriate here.
That being said, extreme drama in metal can be a tough line to walk. For every Slipknot debut we have at least one disappointing Kiss reformation complete with melting makeup….but which camp do Lychgate find themselves in?
An Antidote For the Glass Pill deals in vivid moods and right away the thing that hits you is sheer gothic drama and frigid atmospherics provided by the crisply recorded instruments and towers of reverb that linger on in the pauses between the mid-tempo bombast. Everything is clean and well defined. Guitars chug, drill and stab theatrically but at no time suffer from the lack of clarity or descent into pointless noise that hog-tie less able black metal bands. To be honest, until the vocal kicks in you’d be hard pushed to pick this out as a black metal record at all!
That is mostly due to the fact that church organ is convincingly used as the main instrument. But rather than superfluously following the guitars, they lead the charge, establishing musical motifs rather than following them. It shouldn’t work but it does and everything feels melodic, educated and eloquent, even during the most dissonant of moments such as the chiming opening to “Letter XIX”.
Speaking of education, Lychgate have some lofty intellectual influences. While citing the philosophical writings of Zamyatin and Witkiewicz may not scream listener accessibility, you can’t fault them when the result is such song writing cohesion. From lyrics to arrangement, everything has been carefully planned and executed; from the ascending chord progression at the climax of “I Am Contempt” right through to the choiral strains of “The Pinnacle Known to Sisphus”. We’re sure ‘Zamy’ and ‘Witkie’ would be proud!
Okay, so you could argue that using a church organ as a lead instrument limits Lychgate’s palette. You could argue that for a work of this kind of scope, they rely too heavily on ‘traditional’ black metal yelps, especially when the second half of the album proves that guitarist/vocalist ‘V’ has an able tenor voice stashed in his locker. But, perhaps that’s Lychgate’s point. They have no intention of lessening their impact by dropping out of character. It’s all about the impact, the mood, the tone. Antidote To The Glass Pill is more blackened than it is anything else but make no mistake, this is black metal at its most ornate, florid and fundamentally rousing.
Extreme drama in metal is a hard thing to carry off all right. So, do Lychgate lie in the camp of lean, controlled brilliance or alongside bloated dudes in streaky makeup?
Well, that barely deserves an answer. Lychgate have created an album you could get lost in for a week and what’s more, they know it! Brilliant it is then. 8/10