As a grey mist descends upon the grime-encrusted banks of the Thames, a lonely church bell tolls amongst the myriad alleyways of historical London; five figures appear out of the gloom and close in with nefarious intent. A lonesome figure waits within, silhouetted against the dim infernal light, his hands perched feverishly over the rows of keys that adorn the immense pipe organ, the instrument of antiquity dominating the building’s interior with its looming visage.
As the quintet make their way through the sheltered churchyard entrance that has bequeathed them their name, the organ’s blasphemous cacophony penetrates walls, windows and doors as the once Christian sanctuary prepares to have its presupposed virtue deflowered eternally.
On the surface, An Antidote for the Glass Pill—the sophomore album of London-based black metallers Lychgate—is a gothic Victorian horror show. Delve a little deeper into its wonderfully elaborate concept, invest a little time with its fifty minutes of resplendent chaos, and what begins to surface is an wholly different entity that all but shuns such banal indulgences.
The central theme is based around Jeremy Bentham’s 18th century conceptual Panopticon construction, used here as a metaphor for critiquing postmodern society. This also ties in with the dystopian worlds introduced in Stanislaw Witkiewicz’s novel ‘Insatiability’ and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s influential 1920s work ‘We.’ The album title, song titles and lyrics all revolve around these themes, strengthening the idea — just as in Orwell’s more eminent opus 1984 — of authoritative figures using the illusion of permanent surveillance to instigate control and supremacy over society, and to instil discipline within the population.
The first noticeable—and potentially unique—aspect of the album is the disorienting whirlwind emanating from the church organ, with renowned organist Kevin Bowyer on board to deliver his flawless and insatiable contributions that boost the band beyond the realms of their exceptionally well received self-titled debut. Initially assumed to be a mere adornment to the compositions (as could be heard previously), it very soon becomes apparent that the bombastic, earthy timbre not only controls the music, but regularly takes precedence over the guitars to form the backbone of the album. The adjacency of euphony and atonality — especially noticeable through Bowyer’s contributions — is a key element within this remarkably well composed work; an element that becomes more and more dramatic as time progresses, resulting in colossal crescendos of tense, orchestral clamour and moments of sinister disquiet, laced around individual notes and chords.
The band’s manifold influences — from Emperor and Thorns through to Bach and Liszt — allows them to utilise both classical and contemporary styles and techniques; drummer and percussionist T.J.F. Vallely’s recent involvement with a number of classical ensembles further accentuates this sensation, as the likes of ‘Davamesque B2’ and ‘A Principle On Seclusion’ mix blast beats with doomier and more intricate tempos, the spiralling organ all the while clutching to the music like a possessive spirit and wrenching the rhythmic structure in any direction it chooses.
To top off such a high quality output, Esoteric’s Greg Chandler handles the vocals with ferocious efficiency, with ‘My Fate to Burn Forever’ and the striking ‘Letter XIX’ unveiling his full capabilities; the latter a maelstrom of avant-garde metal and scattered staccato bursts that opens up the more progressive aspect of Lychgate’s repertoire.
Despite the black metal element never truly diminishing, the album remains incredibly melodic throughout, and although bordering at times on the symphonic side of the genre, An Antidote for the Glass Pill finds itself on an entirely different level to what may be expected when using such adjectives. The multi-layered guitar work and the organ’s perpetual resonance are the primary source of this melody, so when the vocals occasionally venture into similar territory it becomes the icing on the cake for this superlative masterwork. ‘Deus te Videt’ and closing number ‘The Pinnacle Known to Sisyphus’ introduce some outstanding harmonised chanting, while ‘The Illness Named Imagination’ provides a showcase for Vortigern’s impressive clean voice, sublime amidst the squall.
Elsewhere, the furious aural assault of ‘An Acousmatic Guardian’ gives way to a beautiful and unnerving piano piece before returning to the tumult once again. The meticulous detail and arrangement of the individual compositions is jaw-dropping, and coupled with the overall concept, it becomes startlingly clear that Lychgate have created something very special here. At once esoteric and flamboyant, An Antidote for the Glass Pill rises far above far above mere gothic hedonism and theatrical pomp – it is a stunningly ambitious release from a group of musicians whose grandiose vision has been fully realised, never to waver from its singular path.
Pre-order via Blood Music:
Vinyl – 200 copies on Metallic Gold 45-RPM 2xLP / 100 copies on Black 45-RPM 2xLP in heavyweight 350-gsm gatefold jacket with metallic pantone gold printing.
CD – 1000 copies in 10-panel cross digipack with metallic pantone gold printing.