I remember when I was first introduced to Cincinnati’s Lucis Absentia back in 2015. Only that wasn’t the name they went by. When Justin of War Curse first told me about them, they had a single EP under the moniker of Gomorrah. With the name change in 2016, the rumors of a full-length release began to whirl around the dark alleys of the underground. And, now, after three long years, Lucis Absentia‘s debut record is here. And you, I, we are going in on Gehenna Gate at ground zero. I know they play thrashy, progressive, melodic death metal in the vein of Sylosis. And I know Gehenna Gate is twelve tracks packed into a robust seventy-two minutes. With that in mind, light the fuse and let’s go.
As with all epic journeys, I suppose the best place to start is the beginning. In this case, the massive, seven-minute opening title track. “Gehenna Gate” is the quintessential piece for the band and a perfect representation of what’s to come. It has thrashtastic licks, battering/bulldozing drum work, winding/whirling guitar solos, an intoxicating aroma of melody, and fitting Sylosis-meets-Trivium barks, growls, and screams. Likewise, “I, Ethereal,” “The Oculus,” and “Devoid of Light” combine the same kinds of ripping riffs and guitar wankery with high-flying melodies. Of the three, the front-half of “The Oculus” is the heaviest and its back-half is the most soaring. The midsection of “Devoid of Light” is the most passionate and the solo work of “I, Ethereal” is the most jaw-dropping.
While every song on the disc is jam-packed with ideas, others are less vast—focusing on a riff here or an emotion there. Though melodic lulls exist in “Penumbra” and “Reflections of the Blind,” these songs fucking slay. Their riffs, their attitude, their execution—from being to end, are behemoths. On the flip-side, “From Dust” pours out a truckload of emotion via its reverberating clean guitars and the choruses of “When Willows Weep” and “Of Rust and Bone” tap into the melodic vocal arrangements of Dark Tranquillity and Trivium, respectively. But don’t take this to mean there aren’t massive riffs ahead. After the clean guitar intro, “From Dust” unleashes a massive, headbangable death march. And the closing riff of “When Willows Weep” is the catchiest thing on the disc.
Gehenna Gate is an impressive package of memorable melodic death, rounded out and filled to the brim with riff after riff and solo after solo. The vocals are fitting and diverse enough to keep things interesting and, while the drums are too loud and too upfront, they pack one hell of a punch. Like Sylosis, many o’ fan will complain that Gehenna Gate‘s seventy-two-minute track time is too much. But this is a band who’s been itching to get their shit out for years. To me, it ain’t too long. It’s full figured. And it’ll keep you on your toes from the opening title track to the epic, eight-minute closer, “The Pallid Sea.”
Tracks to Check Out: “Gehenna Gate,” “I, Ethereal,” and “When Willows Weep”