There’s something decidedly foul going on with this, the second full length from Birmingham misery merchants, Opium Lord. Vore is thoroughly dark, unpleasant and violent; it’s a glimpse into the minds of some twisted individuals. The album contains elements of sludge, doom and black metal while having a raw, rough around the edges quality, managing to bridge an unlikely gap between bands such as YOB (Mike Scheidt adds guest vocals to ‘Columbia’), Eyehategod and Trap Them. The opener ‘WWCD’ starts with clean guitars and whisper it quietly…a hint of melody, if you didn’t know better you’d think you were listening to the wrong band, until the vocals enter… The muffled screams sound like they were recorded some distance from the rest of the band until they get closer and louder before being swallowed up in a din of distortion and feedback. This is essentially a warning sign for what’s about to follow, those of a nervous disposition should turn back now.
There is little on here that resembles a song in terms of a standardised structure, while the word ‘dirge’ sprang to mind throughout (I don’t necessarily mean that in a negative way), if you’re expecting ear worms that you can hum and whistle while going about your daily business you may be disappointed. If you enjoy a good riff then ‘Lead Magnet’ will go some way to satiate your appetite, featuring a simple but effective repetitive guitar riff coupled with vocals which are spat in your face. While ‘Sherwood is Connector’ is a slab of slow, grinding doom (reminiscent of Sabbath), before it calls an atmospheric halt to proceedings halfway through. With an unexpected change of pace the track ratchets through the gears propelled along by a bass groove. On an album full of inaccessible songs these are the most accessible.
Opium Lord are not easy to define, they tend to be pigeonholed as doom or sludge but this feels a little misplaced. The band themselves have stated that they find it difficult to describe their own sound, preferring to ‘constantly experiment’ rather than be constrained and limited by a specific genre. Vore is testament to this; tracks such as ‘Suture’ and ‘Gift’ take unexpected turns going down paths less travelled, when it seemed easier and possibly more profitable to stick to the original course. The latter features tar thick guitars sprinkled with strangled discordant guitar leads which tend to disorientate the listener. The schizophrenic indecipherable vocals sound like demonic identities fighting with each other over an unfathomable topic; the pros and cons of a no deal Brexit, whose turn it is to put the bins out or maybe what’s the best marinade to use when eating human flesh.
Vore is a difficult listen; it gets under the skin, the type of album that compels the listener to have a wash after listening to it. This won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if the band intended to create music to soundtrack being eaten alive then Opium Lord deserve credit. However, as a main course, Vore did leave me feeling a tad underwhelmed. There are only seven tracks, which can be consumed whole, but they are difficult to digest. This is in no small part due to the amount of experimentation, which can make it seem disjointed at times. It’s always good to hear a band doing something different but there were times when I wished they would crank out more teeth rattling riffs rather than going off on tangents and losing momentum. Of course this may be the point, it was never meant to be easy or predictable. Vore is undoubtedly a grower and requires repeated listens to fully get to grips with, it may well be worth going back for dessert.
(7/10 James Jackson)