Poisoning the well

Lord Dying brings the sludge to Dayton

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Lord Dying will perform on Sept. 5 at RockStar Pro Arena; photo: Danger Ehren Photography

Sludge. What does the word bring to mind? Thick, nasty motor oil perhaps? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines sludge as “thick, soft, wet mud: a soft, thick material that is produced in various industrial processes (such as in the treatment of sewage): a thick material that can form in the oil in an engine and cause engine problems.”

And while we’re on the topic of trying to define things, what exactly is sludge metal? A Wikipedia entry calls it “an extreme genre of music that melds elements of doom metal and hardcore punk, and sometimes Southern rock … often featuring shouted or screamed vocals, heavily distorted instruments and sharply contrasting tempos. Sludge metal generally combines the slow tempos, heavy rhythms and dark, pessimistic atmosphere of doom metal with the aggression, shouted vocals and occasional fast tempos of hardcore punk.”

The New York Times adds that sludge metal is “The shorthand term for the kind of rock descending from early Black Sabbath and late Black because it’s so slow and dense.”

With all that in mind for the uninitiated, Portland, Oregon’s Lord Dying fits the descriptions above, qualifying them as a band creating their musical art within the confines of said subgenre, although the band members themselves seem to bristle a little at such somewhat trite classification.

“We’ve never tried to categorize our music as a specific style,” says Lord Dying guitarist and vocalist Erik Olson. “I can understand why people want to label us as sludge metal but I think it’s lazy.”

Upon close listening to Lord Dying’s musical output, Olson’s gripes bear some legitimacy. Having been together since 2010, Lord Dying has married Pentagram- and Saint Vitus-inspired riffery with guitar chuggery more associated with death metal. Fast, driving rhythms discerning listeners would expect more from a punk record than a metal one, crisp production values and songs that typically don’t exceed the seven-minute mark as opposed to many of their contemporary doom/sludge brethren whose songs often trudge 10 minutes or more. In other words, Lord Dying both exhibits all the hallmarks that metal heads and music nerds consider to be sludge metal and thwart them.

But at the end of the day, Lord Dying contends that no matter how you slice it, they are a heavy metal band and the strength of their music is centered around the one word that metal heads agree is the most important element—the almighty riff.

“First and foremost we’re a metal band,” declares Olson. “I’d say were some kind of weird hybrid between death, sludge and thrash metal. We all have different bands/composers that influence us, but everything is all centered around the riff. The riff always comes first and everything else comes later.”

What has come later for Lord Dying since their formation has been attracting the attention of, and getting signed by, Relapse Records, one of the undisputed tastemakers of the American metal scene.

“Matt Jacobsen [founder of Relapse Records] lives in Portland and started coming out to our shows when we were getting started, and he expressed an interest in us,” Olson explains.

“He showed our demo to the rest of the staff and they turned us down at first, however Matt was determined. He paid for us to record our first album, which we recorded with Sanford Parker, without any definite home for it. After it was finished, he showed it to the Relapse staff again, they loved it, and signed us shortly after. It’s been amazing working with Relapse, the crew is awesome and the reception has been amazing from critics and fans alike.”

Following their 2013 debut Summon The Faithless with incessant touring and high profile gigs at Roadburn, Psycho California and Scion Rock Fest, Lord Dying issued their sophomore release, Poisoned Altars, earlier this year to much acclaim from both fans and critics alike. The new record shows Lord Dying at their sharpest, moving like a bulldozer at a monster truck rally—sometimes attacking quickly toward their target and demolishing whatever lays in its way, and other times emitting all impending doom while it encroaches its subject and grinds out the unfortunate slowly enough to savor its destruction—and all with riffs that stick to your ribs.

“When we started writing Poisoned Altars we knew that we wanted to make something that was more aggressive and cohesive and possibly even a little bit catchier than anything we’d done in the past,” Olson explains. “The reception for Poisoned Altars has been extremely positive from both fans and critics. We’re really psyched on the response and we’re all really proud of how it turned out.”

And now Lord Dying is on tour yet again to support the release of Poisoned Altars, including their debut performance in the Gem City this Saturday with fellow Pacific Northwest metal hot shots Toxic Holocaust. According to Olson, the band is looking forward to the show with zeal.

“This will be our first time in Dayton and we’re stoked!” Olson says. “The Toxic Holocaust tour came about because (Toxic Holocaust frontman) Joel Grind is a good friend and we’ve been talking about doing some shows together for some time now. Come out and bang your fucking head!”

Lord Dying will perform Saturday, Sept. 5 at RockStar Pro Arena, 1106 E. Third St. in downtown Dayton. Toxic Holocaust, Architects of Doom and Duderus are also on the bill. Tickets are $12 in advance. The show is all ages and the doors open at 7 p.m. For more information please visit lorddying.bandcamp.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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