Review by Fernando on July 26, 2021.
It's interesting how over the last three decades black metal has morphed and evolved. Nowadays the label can be used to any type of extreme metal if it meets a specific dark and sinister vibe alongside the band's artistic intention, and today we have such an example with Lykhaeon out of Switzerland.
Lykhaeon is the first band that came out of the collective of musicians known as the Helvetic Underground Committee which is known today, primarily for bands like Ungfell and Dakhma, and just from those 2 bands it's easy to see how wildly diverse this collective's music is. Lykhaeon is no exception, as the original project of Kerberos from Dakhma, one can find many similarities in the atmosphere and music, however whereas Dakhma is more in line with cacophonous and dissonant blackened death metal, Lykhaeon is a different beast entirely. This new opus; Opprobrium, their sophomore record released through Repose Records, (which was made with the help of Ungfell's very own Meister T.), solidifies Lykhaeon's place in the H.U.C. pantheon of black metal.
For starters, Lykhaeon slumbered for a time due to main man Kerberos being involved in other projects, and the band's debut and preceding EP are much different in style and execution to this record (though some similarities remain). The main difference and what many people will notice with Opprobrium is how the sound is much more polished than the debut record, which was a raw and dissonant style of black metal that had some similarities to bands like Antaeus and Leviathan (USA), and while some of those musical influences are still present in Opprobrium, the music is now more cavernous and atmospheric. People familiar with Portal and Vassafor will immediately get a very similar feel. The down tuned guitar riffs and bass heavy mix and pounding drums, combined with ominous ambience and Hellenic folkloric instrumentation give the music an overwhelming and engrossing feeling of pure dread, but interestingly, the cleaner production manages to make the experience bearable while still being able to maintain the extremity that keeps black metal inaccessible.
And since I mentioned Greek elements, this is an aspect where Lykhaeon is also unique, because this is a concept album detailing the Underworld myths of Hades and Persephone, and the entire album is composed as a play of sorts, with each song being a chapter of this tragedy, and even the shared vocal work between Kerberos and Meister T. is an actual dialogue between characters, complete with choirs to further enhance the feeling of hearing a particularly anguished Greek tragedy. And that's another unique aspect of this album, the music for being so chaotic and disharmonic has an oppressively melancholic feel throughout, with an equally overbearing sense of dread, as it stands, the band were more than successful in crafting an album that evokes the Greek realm of the dead.
Lastly, the one and only issue with the album is the issue that plagues all concept albums which is homogenization. Opprobrium is meant to be a dark opera of death, and as such, all the songs follow the same atmosphere and structure, and share the same arrangements. As such some songs feel the same and unlike other albums, this is very much intentional, but at the same time, that means this isn't an album you just leave playing in the background, because if you're not paying attention, 3 songs would go by and you wouldn't be able to tell if 3 songs went by or if the first song is ridiculously long, and this is not helped at all by how long the songs are.
Overall, Lykhaeon were successful in making an ambitious soundtrack to retell the most emblematic underground myth of Greek antiquity, while still showing how insanely talented and evergreen the Helvetic Underground Committee continues to be. This is an easy recommendation for fans of bands like Blut Aus Nord and Funeral Mist, and a good starting point for newbies to experience the darker side of extreme metal, but with the asterisk of treating this record as a concept album to be fully immersed into.
Best tracks: 'Abducting The Seed', 'The Whorish Arrogance Of Immortals'.
Rating: 8 out of 10474