Okay, I’m gonna be totally honest. I didn’t listen to the first Lord Dying album. I have now – I’ve actually fallen pretty hard for these guys – but I didn’t when it came out. I’d heard the name, ordered it into my shop, sold it to other people, but I never actually put it on. I judged it by its cover. I know, I know – I’m terrible. But it’s usually so easy to do with metal, isn’t it?.... I did these guys a definite disservice, but they tricked me! They have a much more extreme aesthetic and artwork than one would typically expect from a sludge-y, doom-y, stoner-rock-y kind of outfit. I figured way more American, traditional, death metal-y type stuff. But this album was coming, and being touted ‘for fans of Red Fang, Crowbar, and High on Fire’ and, well, Red Fang and Crowbar are alright, but my love for HOF knows no bounds, so I figured I’d give it a try, even if that promotion did set the bar ridiculously high. So lets get it out of the way, cause the HOF comparison gets tossed around with these guys a lot – am I willing to bet that they listen to Matt Pike? Yep. Are they just baby HOF? No fucking way. There is plenty of that same breed of galloping, intensely heavy fucking riffs and driving, primal drumwork, but Lord Dying are crafting their own unique sound here, no question.
And it is one of the heaviest things I have heard in a long, long time. This is metal at its most stripped down and purest; straightforward, but that doesn’t mean its simple. Poisoned altars is well-crafted by some very capable musicians, who are clearly very comfortable in their vision for their band. It’s aggressive and pounding, but every one of these songs has a very definite groove, with these incredibly smooth and appropriate tempo changes. Personally I can find tempo shifts a little too jarring, proggy or simply unwanted at times, but on this album, every single time it seems like exactly where the song was meant to go. The riffs are solid and memorable, and there is some very respectable and traditionally-informed guitarwork and soloing - a definite thrash quality at times, and just a touch of Iron Maiden. The vocals are pretty aggressive – somewhere past Matt Pike’s speaking/singing voice but not quite to death metal; almost a post-hardcore/ Neurosis style, with the exception of a few cleaner vocal experiments (including a little Red Fang cameo). Honestly, if I was guessing, I would have picked Georgia instead of Oregon for Lord Dying. The vocals for sure, but they also share that same raw, gritty, DIY feel that metal doesn’t always have, but which has run through bands like Black Tusk, and earlier Baroness and Kylesa.
But really, if I needed to compare them to another band, it wouldn’t be any of those, or HOF, it’d be Entombed. Poisoned Altars has that same balance of brutality and heaviness, with just enough fun and groove. And its every bit as fulfilling and welcome here on Poisoned Altars as it was once upon a time on Wolverine Blues. In fact its almost impossible not to slow headbang just a little to this album, or maybe throw a fist in the air now and then – which is exactly what I want my metal to make me feel.