Lybica – Lybica Review

First and foremost, and this should come as no surprise to any of you… but this wins Cover o’ the Year for me. Hands down, no competition. Sure, you’ve got your Eliran Kantors, your Travis Smiths, and your Necrolords. And that’s all fine and dandy. But here, we have a proud, majestic cat with its tongue out, as if to say, “I’m here, world… and I shall blep.” It’s only fitting, then, that Lybica, the South Floridian instrumental band featuring Killswitch Engage’s Justin Foley and members of Gravel Kings, would name themselves after the African wildcat species often referenced as the godfather to the modern-day domesticated cat. But you’re probably wondering to yourself if this was any good or not. So grab a frosty beverage, boop your favorite feline or canine, and read along!

As we all know, instrumental metal1 comes in all forms, whether it’s the dreamy introspection of Cascadian or the lurching heaviness of Russian Circles. Lybica pulls from both realms, but casts their net further and wider to ensnare multiple soundscapes outside of the instrumental zone, with varying (but mostly good) results. Opener “Ascend” is the closest to referencing the Cascadian side, all airy and dreamy like the instrumentals accompanying a Sylvaine tune, and perfect for waking up from an 18-hour nap, with Foley and fellow guitarist Joey Johnson supplying some beautiful melodies over a slow, pulsing rhythm. In stark contrast, “Resonance” rumbles forth with Chris Lane grooving away at his kit and Doug French offering up tasty bass riffs building up in lock-step, like a set-up between two angry cats going into battle with each other after bathing time between the two goes on for too long.

Riffs and moods are in no short supply. “Oktavist,” easily the heaviest and fastest song on here, dips its toes into thrashier waters, with heavy staccato riffs, pummeling drums, and hypnotic builds. “Palatial” sees them diving into The Ocean with dalliances into post-metal builds and crests. Closer “Charyou” plays like a refresher of all the various moods and directions Lybica guides you through, ending just as ambiently as it began. Through all nine lives, err, tracks, Lybica sets course into each with enough skill and hooks to keep you occupied and curious.

But they don’t always land on all four feet. “Manifest,” no matter how many times I hear it, always has that 90s not-quite-grunge, not-quite-alt-rock-song-on-a-teen’s-TV-show vibe that I can’t quite shake, especially in the song’s first half. “Ferment” also pulls things down a bit with a comparatively lethargic vibe before picking things up again in the song’s second half. “Linnaeus,” at under a minute, feels like a throwaway part that could have been tacked on to the end of “Manifest” with no consequences. The biggest concern I have with Lybica lies in the fact that the band pulls a little too much from everywhere all at once, and it messes with the overall flow of the album quite a bit.

Seeing as this is a debut, though, I’m still impressed overall with Lybica. There’s enough here to not only enjoy, but I can see the band tightening things up for the next go-’round. The riffs are mighty, the leads tasty, the rhythms compelling, and a good portion of the songs grab onto you. That’s all anyone can ask for. Well, that and a pet as adorable as the cat on the cover.2

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 16th, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Instrumetal?
  2. BOOP!!!
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