Lycus abandoned its native Sacramento for Oakland several years ago because the city didn't have enough bands or dedicated venues to sustain a metal scene. Now, Jackson Heath, the band’s vocalist and guitarist, wonders how long Oakland’s scene can hang on.
“It’s changing, for sure,” Heath says by phone from his home in West Oakland. “The main shift is there are fewer house shows. People are getting evicted, and there aren’t as many punk houses anymore. A lot of the long-running, DIY places are gone.”
Heath and Lycus co-founder Trevor DeSchryer were drawn to the Bay Area for its thriving metal community, which included the now-disbanded doom mainstay Asunder and death metal mavericks Vastum and Necrot. But in the years since Lycus released Tempest, their debut album, which landed on Pitchfork's and Stereogum's best-of lists for 2013, more than one house on Heath’s block has gone up for sale to new residents with fatter wallets.
[jump] The rapid turnover that has ousted musicians and artists has left Lycus feeling alienated in a city that used to embrace the band. And it has also fueled band members’ anger, Heath says, which is not such a bad thing when you’re making some of the most challenging, gloom-soaked music heavy metal has to offer.
Heath says he and DeSchryer were drawn to doom for its sorrowful nature and ability to unearth deeply buried feelings. Both Tempest and its 2016 follow-up Chasms are distinctly personal, describing feelings of loss and unworthiness, painful isolation, and the solace of the nighttime world. But for all its heaviness, doom as a genre can be remarkably cathartic, even uplifting, especially in its more expansive, melodic moments.
“It provides release,” Heath says. “It’s getting email from a fan that says, ‘I had a tough week. I wasn’t sure I could continue on, but Chasms got me through it.’ Hearing that from ordinary people … it’s very special.”
Emails like that can keep a struggling metal band on its feet, even when the place it calls home has started to feel hostile. Heath acknowledges that Lycus’ members, like many others, aren’t native Oaklanders — they came here as transplants. But they came to Oakland to be among artists and musicians, and many of them have since been forced out by the increasingly pricy rents.
“I kinda feel bad speaking about this because we did move here, but we’re not rich. We’re perpetually broke,” he says. “It’s a really depressing situation. I wonder if we’ll be able to afford to stay here.”
Lycus will perform with Coffins and Noothgrush at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2016 at the Oakland Metro Operahouse, 522 Second St., Oakland. $12.