The month of January is always a difficult one for us writers here at Angry Metal Guy. As evidenced by the staggering amount of Things You Might Have Missed articles that are still coming in, the sheer sparsity of new music is leaving us parched with thirst for thrilling material, and even more so when said thrilling material is at an absolute premium. Following up on their well-regarded debut, 2013’s Summon the Faithless, Portland, Oregon’s Lord Dying have returned with a flask of beer-soaked anthems in Poisoned Altars. Have they brought us salvation from the lack of high-quality releases this month, bringing much-needed nourishment our way?
In short, no… but it’s a fun romp for the duration of its length. From the opening riffs of the title track, you are hit with heavy riffing, heaving drumming from new drummer Rob Shaffer that would make Des Kensel (High on Fire) glare in envy, and some damn good bellowing from guitarist Erik Olson, sounding like a younger, hungrier, angrier Kirk Windstein (Crowbar). This is a no-frills, non-pretentious sledgehammer attack on the skull, and a great way to open an album.
And with some exceptions, it adheres to their thunderous modus operandi quite well. “Suckling at the Teat of the She-Beast” (love that title) adds a little punk to the mix before going head-long into battle with High on Fire and Crowbar. “The Clearing at the End of the Path” is a crawling mammoth with a couple of progressive Mastodon moments sprinkled here and there amongst the heaviness. “A Wound Outside of Time” is sheer worship at The Obsessed altar. “Offering Pain (and An Open Minded Center)” showcases Shaffer’s heavier-than-uranium pummeling and a solo that recalls Deliverance-era Woody Weatherman (Corrosion of Conformity). It’s all performed capably enough, but the problem I have with Poisoned Altars is it’s like me when I’ve had a few IPAs too many. In other words, I have a hell of a time trying to recall parts after hearing it completely, but I’m enjoying the ride while it’s playing. Well, except for “An Open Sore,” in which Olson sings in his Windstein voice, which comes across as a little wonky for me.
Joel Grind (he of Toxic Holocaust infamy) did an admirable job producing Poisoned Altars. This is just full-on beef: the drums hammer, the bass hits square in the chest, and the guitars bring the required warmth needed for good sludge to be effective. It could use some more analog warmth and a bit more dynamics, but it still works. Again though, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I just wish the songwriting hit as hard as the sound does, because saying that this band has potential would be a massive understatement.
I wanted to like Poisoned Altars more, but I don’t hate it either. As the much-missed Alex Franquelli said in his review of the debut, they’re aren’t near their potential, but what I’m hearing with this album is making me both curious and frightened for when they do bring the Doom/Sludge Apocalypse, because it’ll be awesome indeed. For now, though, I will continue to keep an eye out for these guys in the future.