Formed in 2010 by former Acheron alumni Tony Blakk and Pete Slate, Florida’s Druid Lord take the old-school approach of “it’ll be ready when it’s damn good ‘n ready”. In other words, with the exception of a few splits and a couple of EPs, it’s been eight years between their debut, Hymns for the Wicked, and the album you see before you. Having not heard a note of theirs prior to taking up the gory mantle for review, I reached into the ol’ Grymm Grab Bag™ to see what goodies Druid Lord have in store for us. With a descriptor over at Metal Archives as being death/doom with a strong horror vibe, this should be right up my alley, yes? Well…
The good news is just about everyone performing on Grotesque Offerings possess a level of musical competence. Blakk’s growls rest comfortably in that “growling but very discernible” mid-range that neither hides nor distracts. The riffs of Slate and Ben Ross are mostly serviceable, containing some Ghoulgotha atonality tossed in, and help paint a grotesque backdrop for Blakk’s stories. Album highlight “Murderous Mr. Hyde” takes the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tale, and fleshes it out nicely with macabre riffing, atonal melodies, and a seriously foreboding aura that permeates throughout the song’s entirety. In both songs, the dirge, the crawl, and the resulting ichor of impending doom makes for some pretty compelling 3-4 minute songs of death/doom goodness.
And that’s a big problem as half of the songs on here, save for “Murderous Mr. Hyde,” “Black Candle Seance,” and the three instrumentals, hover in the 7-8 minute range. Worse still, they don’t flow very well. “House of Dripping Gore” starts off slow-but-promising, but then transitions poorly into a death metal midsection, before slowing shit way down to the point of sheer boredom within the song’s eight minute length. Elden Santos’ inconsistent drumming pulls things down further, with some sloppiness (“House of Dripping Gore”) and an overall lack of tightness that good doom/death needs. But the biggest problem lies in the fact that the songs are largely interchangeable. With the exception of the aforementioned tracks and the much-needed energy boost in “Last Drop of Blood,” the album saunters by without much of an imprint. Much like the aforementioned Acheron, a large part of Druid Lord‘s writing remains sadly unmemorable.
A brick-walled production job also hampers Grotesque Offerings. While Blakk’s growls are clear and forefront, his bass remains buried. Santos’ kit sounds clicky and almost processed, especially in the bass drums. The guitars thankfully retain the distortion necessary to leave an impact, but even then, I can’t help but feel like more care should have been exhibited in the studio to ensure not only a quality listening experience, but also one that punishes and crushes. If Vainaja taught us anything, they taught us that you can have a dynamic album that not only sounds pleasing to the ear, but can also demolish everything in sight. In fact, if the songwriting were tightened as well, with the fat trimmed off, this album would leave a far stronger imprint.
And that sucks because, at a surface level, this should be right up my alley. Doom/death with a horror theme? Abso-fucking-lutely! But even with so much time between albums, Druid Lord came up short. I can’t get on the bandwagon for parts of songs. I want to be on the bandwagon for the whole ride, and Grotesque Offerings sadly doesn’t deliver. Perhaps next time.