Sludge is an odd genre in that it’s often that a band does it well, but it’s rare that a band does it really well. Portland’s latest purveyor of riff-heavy sludge, Lord Dying, luckily falls into the latter category. However, don’t expect to fall prostrate to these Poisoned Altars right away. Lord Dying’s debut Summon the Faithless offered up a sound that was part Crowbar and part High on Fire; that is, this was a band that centered its sound on glorious riffs. Unfortunately, an album stuffed with riffs doesn’t necessarily make for a great album, so while Lord Dying offered up something enjoyable, it wasn’t all that memorable.
The first two tracks from Poisoned Altars make it sound like the band didn’t learn its lesson. Sure the title track and “The Clearing at the End of the Path” are pretty pretty great songs, but they offer up little other than solid riffs. Thankfully, the rest of the album showcases a band who is willing to play around with its sound. The second half of Poisoned Altars alludes to the occult imagery from the album’s art, with eerie leads and wicked guitar solos. Of course, the riffs aren’t exactly lacking either, so there’s little doubt that this album showcases a marked improvement on Lord Dying’s debut. Tracks like “Offering Pain (and an Open Minded Center) and “Suckling at the Teat of the She-Beast” offer both wordy song titles and ferocious slabs of sludge metal, coupled with an almost progressive songwriting ability. They are certainly surprisingly dynamic, in a good way. In fact, the latter song might be in the running for top songs of 2015 so far (a rather dubious list, to be fair).
Lord Dying hasn’t perfected its template yet. You get the sense that the best is yet to come for this Portland group, but make no mistake. Lord Dying is a beast to be reckoned with in the world of sludge metal. Poisoned Altars is a definite grower, but it’s an album that is certainly worth the extra few spins to allow the poison to seep into your brain. (Nicholas Senior)