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Lycania – My Kingdom Come

Lycania – My Kingdom Come

Lycania - My Kingdom Come

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Release Date: 21 October, 2023
  • Label: Independent
  • Musicians:
    Julian Körner-Schuchardt - Guitars,
    Peter Lenz - Keyboards,
    Sarah Gorzelitz - Vocals,
    Samuel Karres - Drums
    Daniel Engström - Guitars, Vocals,
    Felix Schmidtmann - Bass
  • Favorite songs:
    Majesty of Madness, Lust for a Tale, My Empty Page
  • For Fans of:
    Nightwish, Epica, After Forever

Lycania’s debut release is certainly an interesting one to me. Despite coming across as quite generic at first, it seems one of the more challenging albums I’ve tried to review recently. This is partly because after a number of listens I came to realize, it’s really not quite as generic as I initially thought. A lot of the details that I had a tendency to overlook became much more relevant once I started to understand the overall mood and intention of the album. “My Kingdom Come” is a bit of a diamond in the rough, with some cracks clearly noticeable here and there, but overall, it is a coherent and satisfying debut release that I hope will give a good start to this band and help get them noticed.

The genre to be expected here is primarily symphonic metal. On first glance, the band comes across as yet another Nightwish wannabe, and in many ways, it actually is. But that’s not exactly a problem, because the music is actually good, and although undeniably influenced by other artists, it puts its own message, story and charisma on display. Now that I mentioned Nightwish, I’ll start by getting the similarities out of the way. First off, it has a throwback vibe. Raw production and slightly clunky sound overall (I assume deliberately made that way) makes it feel more cathartic and penetrating than a super crisp production might. However, it does trade off some of the punch and ‘epic’ aesthetic in the process. But that’s not exactly a problem because the impact is more strongly delivered through the composition and performance itself than the production value. This sound gave me quite a flashback, all the way to albums like Oceanborn and Wishmaster. Sarah Gorzelitz’ vocals also seem to go for a bit of Tarja Turunen imitation, though it’s hard to tell whether this was intentional or a ‘lucky accident’ that the band stumbled into due to the vibe they were going for. But the biggest Nightwish similarity must be the lyrics, clearly they’re not even trying to hide it. Motifs like ‘wanderer’, ‘poet’, ‘angels’ and ‘lost love’ are scattered all over the album and the overall presentation of the work as a theater play, does an incredible job at “Holopainenifying” everything up. But I want to make it clear, this is not a criticism. If you can tribute one of the greatest bands alive in your work and do it well, I’m all about that. And this band did it well, because while they borrowed so much of the early Nightwish toolkit, they’re not redoing Nightwish. The album feels raw and honest, and after going through the whole thing a number of times, it totally doesn’t feel like something Tuomas and co’ would have written.

Lycania – My Kingdom Come

And that gets me to the music. It’s very satisfying to me to hear interesting songwriting in symphonic metal, because the genre has become such an imitation pool, with many bands that just borrow the ready-made imagery and basic elements and roll with it, but lose the artistic character. Thankfully, there’s a flipside to that, which certainly manifests itself in this album. It’s when a band takes the surface wrapper (metal mixed with orchestral elements and opera-ish vocals) but brings a different approach to the musical groundwork. So, if you were to strip Nightwish of all its orchestral elements, you would essentially be left with a classic power metal band, whereas Lycania’s metal backbone looks rather like a groovified, mellow, and even slightly experimental and progressive take on classic heavy metal. And I love that they did that because the ‘sad boy poet’ appearance gives the album a cohesive theme that all the songs connect through, but the writing changes from song to song, allowing the album to stay interesting all the way through. This is tough to pull off when you’re going for the full hour in terms of run time, and especially tough when no one knows who you are. This young bunch is bold indeed, but crafty in their boldness too, which is why it works.

So, if we look at the songs we do see a bit of power metal going in there as well, particularly on ‘The Lone Poet’s Ballad’ and ‘The Wayfarer’s Dream’. But it is the more upbeat, slightly mellow power metal as opposed to the full-blown machine-gun drum fest you might expect. The latter also seems to hint at thrash metal on the drum parts in certain moments and also reminded me of Visions of Atlantis with regards to the song’s pacing. But the likes of ‘Standing on the Edge’, ‘Dark Halls of Oblivion’ or ‘Uncrowned’ are well planted into the heavy metal backbone. There are also some chonky bangers with proggy tendencies, which also happen to be my favourite songs. These would be ‘Majesty of Madness’ and ‘Lust For a Tale’. And they’ve got a good ballad game going on as well, which is actually super fitting for the album’s mood. ‘My Empty Page’ is another favourite of mine, the title track and ‘The Memory Remains’ (not James Hetfield’s memory) mix heavy and ballad dynamics very well, and ‘As Beauty There in Shackles Lies’ even has a crack at some doomy riffs with menacing double bass drums. The effect that this mix of approaches has on you when you’re listening is that it keeps you engaged and curious, and whenever you might start feeling like you’re getting bored, something new will happen, or at least something you haven’t heard since 2 or 3 songs ago. Nothing about the music is extraordinary, mind-blowing, inventive or mega-surprising, but they were very clever and effective in playing their cards right and maximizing their potential.

Lycania – Dark Halls of Oblivion (feat. Thorsten Schuck of Neopera)

As mentioned before, the overall motion of the music feels slightly ‘clunky’, and I want to make clear what I mean by that, and why it’s not a criticism. Due to the raw sound, nothing seems hyper precise. It’s not like they go off-tempo or anything, but the rhythmic aspect has a spontaneous and loose feeling. Think of it as the opposite of what you get in a math-metal or djent band. The drums keep a steady, satisfying, and often headbangable pace, but certain transition moments or details will throw you off, without necessarily going progressive. And I’m also willing to bet there isn’t as much post-production tinkering with the drum part as you see on many metal albums nowadays, which gives it a bit more of the live energy. It feels fresh. The riffs also have a slightly muddy and gritty sound. And I’d take a chance to say I think this is intentional because it’s such a good fit for the vibe of the album.

Since I keep mentioning this ‘vibe’ all the time, maybe I should say what it is. To me, ‘My Kingdom Come’ is an indoor cozy rainy day listen, except it’s heavy. While the music is often energetic and dynamic, the sound textures and melodic choices give a melancholic, longing, even slightly doomy vibe. Sarah’s vocals also tend to go for the soft, silky and melancholic tone pretty much all the time. So, there’s a constant sense of discord between energy on the one hand, and hopelessness or apathy or the other. The lyrics also spend an hour basically saying ‘things are bad’ and then end the album by saying ‘things will get worse’ which is so beautifully depressing that it makes me happy! They also tick off the ‘beauty and the beast’ dynamic by mixing guitarist Daniel Engstrom’s growls and Sarah’s operatic female vocals, but they nail it well, and the lyrical tone is adapted to the singing style. We even get some clean vocals from Thorsten Schuck on ‘Dark Halls of Oblivion’.

And another key element that is certainly gonna be exciting for the prog nerds, is the lead section. We get both guitar and keyboard leads, sometimes even alternating. Some technique is visible, but the leads are mostly there for the feels, linking perfectly to the hopelessness of the music with some properly weeping and dramatic moments. Keyboardist Peter Lenz, must also get credit for the clear piano moments (most notable on the title track) that add even further to the organic mood of the album.

So, if you too want to get rid of all that cheap supermarket symphonic metal and nourish your ears with some healthy organic goodies, then I strongly recommend Lycania’s debut record. It’s not perfect, it’s not geometrically calibrated, and certain flaws are clearly visible. The vocals often don’t seem all that well balanced into the mix and seem to come forward a bit too strong (especially on the softer parts). And the songs do seem to come in chunks every now and then, which got me thinking that they could work a bit on the flow! And now that I just compared metal to groceries, I should probably go away and think about becoming a suburban mom. If you’re still with me, thank you and I hope you will enjoy the album!

Track List:

  1. Scriptorium (02:11)
  2. The Lone Poet’s Ballad (05:05)
  3. Dark Halls of Oblivion (03:57)
  4. My Kingdom Come (06:46)
  5. Majesty of Madness (05:00)
  6. Lust for a Tale (04:22)
  7. Standing on the Edge (04:38)
  8. My Empty Page (04:54)
  9. The Wayfarer’s Dream (05:30)
  10. Uncrowned (04:55)
  11. The Memory Remains (08:29)
  12. As Beauty There in Shackles Lies (04:45)

About the Author

Andrei Dan

Born and raised in Romania, currently living and studying in the Netherlands, Andrei was introduced to both classic and modern prog at once when he discovered Symphony X and Intervals in 2015. He has quickly grown fond of all the sub-categories of metal but keeps a focus on progressive or innovative music. Most of his free time is spent keeping track of new artists or releases and visiting concerts.

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