Lord Dying are a band who are forever being compared to others. Due to coming out of Portland and their sludge/thrash sound they were inevitably compared early on to fellow Portlanders Red Fang. Subsequently, while their first two records (Summon the Faithless and Poisoned Altar) were met with praise, it was also often brought up that the shadows of High on Fire and Crowbar loomed particularly large over them. Here on their third album, the band is looking to make a statement with what is without a doubt their most expansive and experimental record to date.
That the band have evolved away from their original sound is immediately apparent even just from the record sleeve. While their first two LPs featured the dark hues and doomy skull-headed figures you would expect from a sludge record, the imagery on this album is entirely more cosmic. Which primes you for all the weird prog metal delights inside.
In classic prog-style, this is also a concept record exploring death and the afterlife. Given the concept, and with song titles like Split From a World Within, Devoid of Dreams, Death, The Final Loneliness and Tearing at the Fabric of Consciousness the whole project could come off as being portentous and grandiose but there is real intellect and emotional heft at play here. Emotional heft that only increases when you learn the record took part inspiration from vocalist/guitarist Erik Olson’s grief over the loss of his sister.
Split From a World Within ebbs and flow from beautiful, mellow psychedelic rock to rousing metal and back over its exquisite seven-and-half minutes, while Tearing at the Fabric of Consciousness is like nothing the band has done before – a short and sweetly melodic instrumental that works as a perfect palette cleanser nestled between the heaviosity of the opener and Nearing The End of a Curling Worm. The latter is probably the heaviest song here and the most akin to their early High on Fire worshipping sound, but even this song takes unexpected spacey detours.
If there are any shadows of other bands here, it would be that of prog-metal kings Mastodon with the likes of Severed Forever most readily bringing the Atlanta band to mind. However, this does little to detract from a record that sounds, for the most part, distinctively Lord Dying’s own and successfully combines various metal elements from psychedelia to prog to thrash to stoner.
Mysterium Tremendum will almost certainly see Lord Dying shed some fans who will pine for the sheer thundering heaviness of their earlier sludge-thrash sound, but that will be their loss. This LP marks not only a significant step in the band’s evolution but sees them becoming future contenders for the prog metal crown.