Lychgate – The Contagion in Nine Steps (Scholarly Metal)


Nice, that cover by the totally unknown Michael Guy is the perfect lead-in because I’ve been waiting to use the word ‘scholarly’ in reference to metal so I can feel like I’m above everyone else. Actually I already have presented myself as such, but this makes it official, and I should get an honorary degree. Probably from some music department at Harvard or something. And that self-fellating intro brings us to this one, The Contagion in Nine Steps, from the masterful force that is Lychgate. Did you think the cocky higher-eduction references were just for fun? Think again, because this album requires practically post-doc knowledge to understand any of it. If you always wanted to call yourself a doctor of (insert field here), listening to this is essentially like taking all the courses, passing your comprehensive exams, publishing research, and then not being able to find a job. Join the fun!


Trust me when I say you’re not ready for this. That’s actually me speaking to myself because goddamn I’m still not ready for this. There comes a point when you need to step outside the ordinary. I did that long ago. Christ I can’t sit at a recital for five-year-olds without saying to myself “horrible arpeggio there” or “practice that pedal work, fool.” But this, this horror that is The Contagion in Nine Steps still has me in stroke mode. I’ve been listening to it for weeks and each time I step maybe a millimeter towards the vast 100-kilometer distance before me in understanding any of it. Like the gate into the cemetery ‘Lychgate’ refers to, this is your trip into the grave of “nothing makes sense anymore.” Lychgate are absolutely without form here. They confront, they find ways to make even goddamn organ sound good, there is simply not enough I could say to sound like I understand. The Contagion in Nine Steps is the deepest of thoughts in metal. I was going to crown it as ‘canon,’ but the primary complaint is its depth is a divider. This is not for the majority, or the minority. It’s not even for the band itself it’s so far removed from the usual sound of even the most “experimental” of metal bands. Truly bizarre, as I had hoped, and this is its only fault. Lychgate would have done much better to draw in the listener with at least the occasional riff smash, but they forwent this entirely. I call it apocrypha merely because it makes it that much more unlikely anyone but me will listen to it. This does not divide fans, it severs itself entirely from any fandom.


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Written by Stanley Stepanic

Lychgate – The Contagion in Nine Steps
Blood Music
4.4 / 5