Friday 10 April 2015

Opium Lord - 'The Calendrical Cycle: Eye of Earth' (Album Review)

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 23/2/2015
Label: Candelight Records

'The Calendrical Cycle: Eye of Earth' CD/DD track listing:

1). Challenger
2). Pink Mass
3). Crystals
4). Black Libraries
5). Azazel
6). Ghost Singer
7). Krocodil


Given the city's size and formidable history in metal I often wonder why Birmingham fails to produce more touring extreme metal bands. Luckily Opium Lord have briefly allayed these concerns with the release and touring surrounding their latest release, 'The Calendrical Cycle: Eye of Earth'.

Straddling that line between doom and sludge that makes the doom nastier and psyches the sludge out, Opium Lord hit the sweet spot. Whilst obvious in theory, the reality is that it is exceedingly tricky to make this type of music that tweaks the doom to be less boring and the sludge actually aurally edible. Few bands manage it; many get mired in a half baked mix of both genres. The guitars here growl rather than fuzz or screech, the songs prowl rather than plod. The tones are weighted to being more mid and bass heavy, more mix desk worship than amplifier worship. Hell, you can hear the bass through the mix from the sheer force of its frequencies, it's crushing.

Whilst not a very long LP, the album uses it's run time well. Sludge/doom has never been one for dynamics, the tropes of the genre limiting its range of expression, but Opium Lord use this well to create an unrelenting and smothering blanket of oppression that characterises the album. Whilst certainly not lacking in the song writing department, the strengths of this album lie more in it's sound and feel; yet the production is what ultimately gives it the life it has and makes it worth repeated listens to allow the rich heaviness to soak past your ears and into your brain.

Perhaps it is the guitarist in me speaking, but whilst the drums keep well paced in the lower mid part of the mix and the vocals perform perfectly adequately, it is the huge monolith of heavy sound created by the bass and guitar that steal the show. Root notes move with the weight of continents rarely heard since 'Dopethrone'. Discordant ringing strings in the higher register abound, the high point being on closing track 'Krocodil' with it's searing guitar leads that could be mistaken for distant tortured screams.

Opium Lord has been touring the UK with Primitive Man recently, so catch them if you get chance.

Words by: Jake Mazlum

'The Calendrical Cycle: Eye of Earth' is available here

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