Portland, Oregon. It seems as if one in every three new doom albums from the USA hail from this location. In fairness to Lord Dying, they’ve been going since 2010, so at the very least have some proper heritage to them, as well as this being their third album, following from “Summon the Faithless” and 2015’s “Poisoned Altars”. The four piece have made it their mission to record this work; they state that it’s the album that they always wanted to make, and is a concept album based on…erm…dying.
Well, lofty ambitions aside, this is a really rewarding listen, with more than a few nice influences to be found here and there. No one (and I repeat, no one) was more surprised than I to hear a guitar melody on album opener “Envy The End” that reminds so much of the main melody from an ancient Kate Bush track, “There Goes a Tenner” from the much-hated (but not by me!) “The Dreaming” album. These kind of influences can be heard throughout the album – which is, at the heart of it – a clean vocalled doom album. The sheer variation in song writing is staggering. It’s almost proof that ambition and talent can produce something special, because have no doubts – this is one of those albums that you will mark out from the rest of the pack on first listen.
“Progressive” is a term that can be used and abused, but in every sense, “Mysterium Tremendum” delivers. The song writing is at once sprawling, expansive and complex, but never so much that it disappears up its own exhaust port. There’s a very real sense of dynamism and musical variety in tracks such as the churning, writhing “Nearing The End of the Curling Worm”. In terms of the playing throughout the album, it’s very, very impressive indeed. The vocals are warm but haunted; Eric Olson’s voice can produce a clear-throated roar, as well as minor-key melodies that are soaked with warmth. The overall sound of the album is very organic and analogue, with plenty of space between instruments to let the music truly breathe. Even on acoustic and vocal tracks like “Even The Darkness Went Away”, there’s a heaviness that soaks through every pore.
The flip side of the “progressive” tag is that songs can sometimes be felt to be overblown, overwrought or lacking excitement. While Lord Dying have really soaked in a lot of 70’s prog-rock influences and retooled them for a doom metal audience, they’ve managed to avoid the very worst that their more self-indulgent ancestors have produced. The seven minute plus penultimate track, “Split From A World Within, Devoid Of Dreams” manages to have several distinct tones and atmospheres, but always manages to keep a grasp of the central feeling of the song. It’s a neat trick, and to be fair, the band show a huge amount of confidence in trying to deliver their vision. A lazy musical journalist might say that they sound like the bastard offspring of Solitude Aeturnus and a “That’s What I Call Prog Rock” compilation album, but I’m not that lazy.
Overall, a special album, and certainly one that should appeal to discerning doomers, fans of complex songwriting, differing musical atmospheres and highly accomplished playing. The rest of you can get back to Metal Hammer.
(8.5/10 Chris Davison)