Tuesday, 11 June 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Lord Vicar, “The Black Powder”

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 26/04/2019
Label: The Church Within Records

It's a doom epic and a throwback to the very best records of the genre. Truly, this is a masterpiece of doom metal and a worthy addition to any doom fans collection.

“The Black Powder” CD//DD track listing:

1). Sulphur, Charcoal and Saltpetre
2). Descent
3). World Encircled
4). Levitation
5). The Temple in the Bedrock
6). Black Lines
7). Impact
8).  Nightmare
9). A Second Chance 

The Review

Lord Vicar are doom royalty, of course- comprising as they do ex-members of a couple of the most influential and greatest doom bands of all time. With an opening track timing at 17mins 16secs in the form of “Sulphur, Charcoal and Saltpetre” the band have opted for an explosive (!) start. Quiet acoustics give way to the murkiest ground out riffage after a couple of minutes and Chritus familiar vocal kicks in. Elsewhere there are tracks which run over 10mins and 8mins, so expect true doom.

Naturally, “Gates of Flesh” was similarly expansive in places, as was “Fear No Pain” and so on. This is what the band do. However, this time around the tracks on offer seem darker than ever. “Descent” takes the vibe even further downward, with Kimi's guitars stirring the blackest pitch in an already dark cauldron. It's an unsettling and in-no-way-uplifting listen. The band reference their own work and one member's previous band's work in the lyrics and everything from the double tracked vocal to the tempo shifts are sublime. This is doom perfection.

There are no rays of sun to be found in “World Encircled” either. The downtrodden feel is relentless and it's a reminder that doom is not really about occult stylings, sludge or 70's biker films at all. It's about crushing misery and despair. Saint Vitus know it, Trouble know it, Sabbath, The Gates of Slumber... they all know it too. Lord Vicar are standing on the shoulders of such giants and also standing alongside them as a modern archetype of what doom should be.

There are grooves here and there, too- it's not just a one paced pity-party. Indeed, the tracks are dynamic and organic in that they take their own path and meander through solo breaks, time changes and some very deft rhythm section interplay.

With 9 tracks on offer, this is a lot to take in on one sitting- think The Gates of Slumber'sSuffer No Guilt” opus and how hard to follow it can be until you fully assimilate it. Just like all the best records, though, the album reveals itself with repeated listens (in my case broken up into commutes both to and from work). “Levitation” plays on its title by being positively upbeat in sound compared to other tracks- but still maintains the crucial down factor throughout. More true doom follows in the form of “The Temple in the Bedrock”, this time with an up-tempo start that'll get even the most downcast head banging. It comes complete with a very down-tempo middle section, but the structure and arrangements are absolutely on point- it comes back around on itself and marks itself out as an all out rager right in the middle of the record. Excellent.

“Black Lines” brings some straightforward heaviness delivered expertly. The pace is not glacial, so this is another head-nodder that brings a 70's Sabbath feel to the album. It's deftly handled and another high point elevating the middle of the record to essential listening. Impact is lunk-headed bludgeon riffola which is again guaranteed to get your head banging and even your toe tapping. It's elemental stuff and all the more forceful for it.

Things cannot stay up forever, though, so “Nightmare” brings acoustic sadness and a militaristic middle to the record. A haunting diversion that bridges the previous rockers with the closing epic of “A Second Chance”. The band return to the bleak sound of the opening third of the album here- to great effect. It's bleak, depressing and quite beautiful in its own way.

As noted earlier, it's hard to review a record of this size and scope as it takes in so much and covers so much ground. The quality of the album will shine through on first listen, but the depths of the album can only be explored with repeated dedicated listening. It's a doom epic and a throwback to the very best records of the genre. Truly, this is a masterpiece of doom metal and a worthy addition to any doom fans collection. With that, I can only close by saying that this comes highly recommended and that you will get out what you put in. Incredible.

“The Black Powder” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook