The Lylat Continuum – Ephemeral Review

This review is testament to the power of the pre-release single. I was immediately intrigued by the description “blending proggy death metal with psychedelic ambient breaks” and its atypical approach to death metal fulfilled this description. I specifically sought out the release in the promo swamp, dredging it up from between the smelly stoner doom and fetid black metal ordinarily infesting it. Denver’s The Lylat Continuum have brewed their potion for a number of years before releasing Ephemeral, their debut album, and it’s nothing if not inventive. Is its “ephemeral” title an indication of its fleeting length? My fleeting interest? Or is it more?

The sound which so interested me on a quick listen is a fusion of Unique Leader-style techy death metal with ambient, psychedelic breakdowns. What you get from this record depends on whether this whets your appetite. The intensity and harsh roars fix this firmly in death metal while the modern production and instrumental command align it with technical and progressive metal. Meanwhile, the liberal use of keyboards and relaxed passages break apart the heaviness, taking different forms such as cosmic synths, sax solos, jazzy drumming, electrified vocals, shimmering guitar chords and piano lines. I hear Fallujah and the most recent Rivers of Nihil record in the cauldron which indicates its cores sound but also its surprising streak of emotion in its moody interludes.

Although some songs sequentially flick between heavy and soft passages, especially earlier on the record on the gargantuan “Zero” and “Epyon,” these strains are interwoven more skillfully in other places. “Level 5” is one of the better tracks as it wraps its keyboards around its speedy guitar leads and death vox, with transitions which strip away particular instruments to bridge heavier and lighter parts. Song-writing deftness is demonstrated; it’s more subtle than many other records I’ve heard which stitch together contrasting styles. Despite this, where Ephemeral wanders too enthusiastically into interludes it becomes unfocused and dreary. Without the crunch of its death metal, these passages are bland. “Sector Y” is the sole track entirely comprising an interlude and I question its worth between tracks which are not overbearingly heavy themselves.

What is beyond reproach are the top-notch performances here. Lylat know their way around their instruments as each member rips through the album’s material. Riffs are theatrical and solos are mind-bending, while the keyboards neatly accentuate their surroundings. In particular, the drummer flips between speedy metal rhythms, jazzy fills and subdued swings as required. However, the vocals are comparatively one-note. They’re fine but only have one speed (“GO!”), and their place in the mix dominates the guitars. This undermines the more interesting leads; I can’t pick out specific riffs I like more than others which is an issue on a metal record stuffed full of guitars.

Lylat are also in dire need of an editor. I do appreciate Ephemeral’s core aesthetic but there’s too much here which doesn’t meaningfully contribute to the whole. It was ballsy to open (barring a short introduction) the record with the aforementioned tracks called “Zero” and “Epyon” but they run over 10 and 12 minutes respectively. They’re journeys on account of their length but they’re just not that interesting as each lacks noticeable milestones and final payoffs. Similarly, “Meta” opens strongly but descends into an extended jam which bloats and loses direction. Things also finish on a whimper, as the title track lacks the distinctiveness of a conclusion. It simply rumbles on as things have previously and finishes with no sense of a destination. I’m left at the album’s close feeling like more was possible, my attention having fluctuated as it progressed.

Lylat are frustrating. The musicianship and ideas are there but Ephemeral lacks quality overall. By the penultimate track, I’m completely uninterested in listening further. Things starts so well as my ears pick up the interesting aesthetic, but the longer I spend with it, the more monotonous it becomes. It’s not a sufficiently rewarding experience to invest yourself to the level required to appreciate the subtler details and song-writing. Glimmers of talent belie a good future release but this is not that.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Self-released
Websites: |
Releases worldwide: February 19th, 2021

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