Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lyceum - Demo (2012)

The common stereotype of metal musicians, and fans, hasn't really changed much over the years. Stupid, meat head, uneducated. We've heard it all before. But with a new wave of American metal rising, all that is about to change. Concord, California based five piece Lyceum are ready to inject a healthy dose of intellect and thought into metal, beginning with a newly released demo. The band name, referring to the academy of Aristotle, is only the beginning. through the course of three songs, the band take you on a journey of epic proportions, one that is as remarkably written as some of the classic literature of the finest universities.

The thunderous gallop of drums launches you into "Armada," pushing you head first into a rib shaking growl. For a guitar riff so heavy, there is a lighter side, a folk inspired groove that may elicit a nod of the head immediately. The vocals are harsh, but they use grit and abusive power to deliver lyrics that are not merely throwaways. Hidden in the deathly roars and blackened screams are tales of heroism and battle, ones that must be read to be appreciated. As with so much melodic death before it, this burrows its way into your brain, leaving a mark that won't soon fade away. But the true power of the instrumental comes in the outro portion, where an intricate, darting bass line becomes entwined in the melodic guitar riffs. This explosive ending is only the beginning.

And while "Exiled" may start out like a black metal opus, that is only a small cross section of what is to come. Machine gun snares and cymbals start a flurry of percussion, a whirlwind of toms and kicks that leaves you dizzy. But before long, you find yourself lost in a crashing wave of guitars and bass. Vocalist Blake Peterson has quite the story to tell, and he delivers it with gusto, and a healthy dose of devilish screams. And while the midpoint may seem like a fight with chaos itself, it is an organized one. Rising from a quick solo, the band returns to form. The sheer strength at play in the final two minutes of this track is almost overwhelming, both lyrically and musically. It is otherworldly the way the music carries the sound of struggle and triumph, while the lyrics give you a play by play of the entire tale. Lost in the casual writing of the melodic death/folk movement, tales of battle don't need to be one dimensional to bring a crowd to their feet, as is clear here.

Over him the white sun rose as he departed for the mountain pass
Many days he traveled into the windswept heights

But on the seventh day as the sun passed the northernmost peak
He descended upon the forsaken city.

The final track, "Dominion," doesn't take the normal "full circle" approach that so many albums typically do. Instead, it opens the story, gives it a broader stroke, one that can carry on from here. There is no shortage of momentum to be had either, with the constant building throughout the album. In the duel guitar attack of Sean Siino and Vince Avitto, you get the perfect balance of dense chugging and fret acrobatics. And, thanks to a crystal clear mix, there is an equality to all pieces, which allows each one to shine in their own right. The four musicians stand as pillars for a vocal delivery that can shake you to your core, while also giving you reason to read along.

We will restore balance with rivers of blood.
Send out the riders of the throne,
They will seek the lion's crest throughout our lands,
And I will await their word.

Lyceum is only an infant in the lifespan of a band (at least I hope so). This demo is like the first steps; except instead of stumbling and wobbling forward, they came out running. There is an intelligence to the way they write, the way they craft heavy, yet rich tracks. It would be easy to fool someone into thinking that this is a three song EP from one of the established titans of melodic death. Slap a different band name on it, and the metal community would be shocked that "Band X" or "Band Y" have finally taken it to another level. But this isn't a veteran act. This is Lyceum. And if this is what they can do now, wait until the teenage years.


Official Site - http://www.Lyceum.at
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/LyceumCE

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