Lord Vicar has been banging about for a while without a lot of press, which is strange considering they’re a doom super group of sorts. In their ranks you’ll find former members of Saint Vitus and Reverend Bizarre and they definitely know a thing or two about their chosen genre. 2011s Signs of Osiris was a sleeper that fell through the AMG cracks and didn’t get reviewed but should be heard as there’s much to admire in their earnest, throwback approach to the days of Witchfinder General, Pentagram and Black Sabbath. Gates of Flesh keeps their core sound more or less intact and delivers loads of old timey rocking doom but also adds copious amounts of what sounds like Lake of Tears worship. In fact, at times this could almost function as a stopgap LoT release for their more impatient fans (read as: me). That’s not a bad thing by any means and the good Vicars definitely know of what they preach.
Opener “Birth of Wine” certainly gets the festivities swigging with an alternately rocking and laid back trip back to the 70s. Imagine Iron Butterfly mixed Sabotage era Black Sabbath and you’ll have the general idea. It’s almost impossible to resist the groovy doom riffs and oddly joyous vibe that runs through Christian Linderson’s (ex-Saint Vitus, ex-Count Raven) vocals, and the smooth segue into muted, tripped out jammery is interesting and captivating. All in all, a really great doom tune and it’s here that the Lake of Tears similarities first surface and they’re a recurring feature throughout the album.
The Lake style is draped all over follow-up “The Green Man,” which sounds like a bonus cut from their Black Brick Road opus (which you should check out). It’s simplistic but extremely compelling and the combination of Linderson’s nasally voice and the heavy, fuzzy riffs really resonates. The heaviness gets ratcheted up for “Breaking the Circle” but it’s still what I consider “easy listening doom” as it’s not overly slow, droning or ponderous and features enough melody and memorability to easily digest. The riff-work is simple and groovy and the vocal patterns are designed to stick in the brain-pan. Linderson does his best creepy Ozzy impression and it all works well. “A Woman Out of Snow” is also interesting and exceptionally moody with a vaguely Cirith Ungol style to the solos. It’s a weird, haunting kind of tune and a definite grower.
The last third of Gates of Flesh is good, but not quite up to the quality of the early cuts. “Accidents” borrows the lead riff from “Black Sabbath” much too blatantly for my comfort and the 10-minute-plus closer “Leper, Leper” is a bit too long for its own good, though the vocals make it much more accessible than most 10 minute doom songs. At a scant 41 minutes, Gates of Flesh is much shorter than the average doom platter and that feels shockingly refreshing. Also tasty is the relatively high DR and rich production which lets the minimal arrangements breathe and marinate in their own sorrow.
Christian Linderson is a well-traveled doom journeyman and I’ve always enjoyed his slightly whiny, vaguely creepy vocal style. His unusual delivery elevates the material several notches and really gives it that dark, plaintive element doom needs to be 100% effective. Kimi Karki provides all sorts of introspective doom riffs and though he hews closely to the Font of Sabbath, he takes enough trips out into the trippiness of space to keep things interesting. The extended jam on “Birth of Wine” is one of the album’s best moments and I wish there was more of that kind of free-form noodling scattered over the remainder of the tracks.
Lord Vicar is a dependable known quantity in the doom world and Gates of Flesh is another solid outing with a few killer songs and flashes of real brilliance. I’d love to see them dabble further outside the lines and expand their traditional style a bit more, but I can’t deny the solid results here. Doom aficionados may purchase without fear.