Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Lord Dying - Poisoned Altars
Metal sub-genres are often problematic endeavors. At their best and most worthwhile, they give some vague descriptor of sound to potential listeners; at their worst they pigeonhole a band's sound so specifically that every band out there turns into their own sub-genre. I'm glad they exist, because it can be a nice, easy way to describe a band without exerting too much effort; "Oh, you like doom metal? You gotta check out Bell Witch (seriously, check out Bell Witch if you haven't yet)!" At the same time, I hate that they exist because it can be damn near impossible to categorize some bands or albums. Genres are basically a series of shifting venn diagrams that exist with the complete circle that is "Metal," and quite often a band will exist inside multiple overlapping circles. Such is the case with Lord Dying's sophomore effort Poisoned Altars; you wouldn't be wrong to call it sludge or stoner metal, but neither of those labels properly convey what awaits you on the album.
Poisoned Altars may be Lord Dying's second album, but you wouldn't know that from listening, as the band fires on all cylinders and gives you the feeling they've been making their brand of swamp rock together for years. Vocalist Erik Olson bellows over riffs so crunchy you'd be forgiven for thinking they were made of burnt bacon; the riffs are courtesy of guitarists Olson and Chris Evans and they absolutely do the trick to get your head nodding along. Musically, the highlight of Poisoned Altars is drummer Nickolis Parks, who keeps the proceedings moving along while using his bass drum to add some rhythmic heft to the songs. After a half dozen listens to the album, Parks' drumming stands out as some of the best and most interesting I've heard within this sludgy/stoner/groove spectrum of music. Drummers (in any type of music) who can make the drum kit feel like an imperative, creative instrument instead of just a spruced up metronome are special, and Nickolis Parks belongs in this category. Check out "The Clearing at the End of the Path" if you don't believe me.
Outside of his drumming, perhaps the strongest aspect of Poisoned Altars is how consistently good it is throughout. While "The Clearing at the End of the Path," "An Open Sore," and "Suckling at the Teat of a She-Beast" (good god what a great title) are the album's highlights, the album's remaining five songs are no slouches themselves, and the result is an album that finishes as strongly as it starts, without ever really letting up at any point during its duration. While that may seem like faint praise, know that not only do I mean it sincerely, but I think it's a huge deal; Poisoned Altars is forty-five minutes of driving riffs and ferocious howls, and there are a lot of bands who would have settled for swelling an EP's worth of music this good into an LP with bloat and filler. Lord Dying is having none of that, and as a result, Poisoned Altars is a record that you can put on knowing your groove isn't going to suffer.
It's easy to look at Lord Dying and Poisoned Altars as a band/album that owes everything it is to High on Fire, but that's a simplistic view that ignores what Lord Dying has done on the album in favor of comparing them to a nearly untouchable, legendary band that happens to play in the same sandbox. It's like saying "Gordon Heyward's a good shooter, but he's no Kobe;" so what? Poisoned Altars finds a terrific balance between gloomy, heavier sludge and fun, up-tempo grooves, resulting in an album that traverses all over multiple genres, never bothering to stop anywhere long enough to lay down roots. Sure, there are genre tropes that abound over the course of the entire album, but Poisoned Altars is a testament to the futility of categorizing music into a neat little box that can be tied up with a pretty bow; after all, no matter how it's described, you don't know what an album sounds like until you listen to it, and Poisoned Altars sounds like a pretty good start to a new year in metal of all sub-genres.
Poisoned Altars is out today; check out "Poisoned Altars," "A Wound Outside of Time," and "An Open Sore" below, and then head over to Bandcamp and give these guys your money to hear the whole thing.