Conan, Lord Dying, Bum Shelter
Conan are as heavy as interplanetary thunder amplified through the roaring black hole anus of Azathoth. Remember that sentence, for it is writ large in virgin blood on the walls of the forgotten temple of Bol-Krastor, deep in the steaming forests of forgotten Lemuria. Conan, a monumentally brutal three piece (in the grand tradition of all the hallowed three pieces through time) hold a sinew-tight line and an iron-grip command over the uber-synchronised powerchord changes and tempo-shifts of the anti-holy trio of bass, drums and guitar. Two weary yet defiant men have the task of vocalising wretched thoughts over the turgid weight of Conan’s metalized bombast. They bear it well, for the task is immense.
Conan are touring to promote their latest offering EXISTENTIAL VOID GUARDIAN (2018 – Napalm Records) and have so far delivered apocalyptic heaviness throughout the USA / Canada / Australia / New Zealand / Russia / Japan and of course Europe. There is nothing heavier, there ARE none heavier. Strap in, focus, ready your defences, Conan are coming to a show near you …
Hear the roar of battle. Smell the stench of split blood. A thousand heads piled high like a grim mound of suffering – a blasphemy to nature.
Portland progressive sludge masters LORD DYING transform tragedy into triumph. A pair of albums powered by skull-crushing riffs and confrontational howls introduced the doom dogs to the world. In 2019, they delivered Mysterium Tremendum, a record Kerrang! declared a “prog-metal masterpiece.”
The heady and adventurous existential meditation on death kicked off a trilogy. That story continues in 2023 with an increasingly ambitious follow-up, the aptly named Clandestine Transcendence.
Lord Dying cofounders Erik Olson (guitar, vocals) and Chris Evans (guitar) are joined by Alyssa Maucere (former bassist for Eight Bells) and Kevin Swartz (current drummer of Tithe). Worldwide converts headbang in devotion, catching the band at festivals and on tours with genre giants like Crowbar, Black Label Society, Corrosion Of Conformity, and fellow Portlanders Red Fang.
Chicago Reader called Mysterium Tremendum “a beautiful meditation on tragedy.” Produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou (High On Fire, Code Orange, Kvelertak) at his God City Studios, Clandestine Transcendence steps even further into the great unknown, filled with riffs and vibes.
From the earliest rumblings of their first demo and self-titled EP (both issued in 2011), through the pile driving force of Summon the Faithless (2013) and crushing despair of Poisoned Altars (2015), Olson and Evans maintained a vision for Lord Dying’s ever-evolving sound. Songs like “In a Frightful State of Gnawed Dismemberment,” “An Open Sore,” and “Darkness Remains' ' pulled no punches. Lord Dying made masterfully melancholic heavy music for the misanthropic, with grit and grime.
Mysterium Tremendum (Latin for “awe-inspiring mystery” or “terrible mystery,” depending on one’s view of existence) began a narrative centered on a central character the band calls The Dreamer. The conceptual themes drove expansive, sometimes monstrous, and even plaintive and vulnerable music.
“Envy The End,” “Freed from the Pressures of Time,” and “Nearing the End of the Curling Worm” became among the band’s most streamed. “The diversity and alteration of Lord Dying’s approach are at a high-water mark throughout,” wrote Metal Injection. “[They’ve] made an astronomical leap forward… The infusion of sludge metal with melodic classic rock has been expanded upon massively and masterfully. What Evans and Olson have created is analogous to the setting off of fireworks.”
Olson describes The Dreamer as an immortal being that wants to die. On Clandestine Transcendence, he gets that wish. “This one is about what happens beyond death,” the frontman explains. Woven throughout the songs, that story and its rich thematic material inform an immersive listen. Tension, drama, and atmosphere abound all over songs like “The Universe is Weeping” and “Unto Becoming.”
As with the previous album, Olson and Evans composed all of the music and demoed it before arriving at the studio. “Kurt is fantastic. It was a real pleasure working with him,” Olson says. “He was very familiar with the demo as he’d listened to it a lot. We knew where we wanted to go with it.”
“I AM NOTHING. I AM EVERYTHING,” “Bond Broken by Death,” “Swimming in the Absence,” “Soul Metamorphosis,” and the rest of the songs, like album closer “The Endless Road Home,” are stunning. The massive scope and melodic vocals found on album three expand further on Clandestine Transcendence. Sharpened songwriting, emphasizing hooks, helps push both extremes of the band beyond prior limits. Simply put, the softer side is even dreamier; the heavy side is twice as brutal.
“Ultimately, the album is about self-discovery and becoming what you want to become in the face of adversity, no matter how the cards are stacked against you,” Olson says. “I’m not really a spiritual person. But a lyric on the album talks about the transformation of energy, how matter cannot be created or destroyed. It’s from a scientific standpoint.” He laughs. “But maybe science is spiritual.”
Doom/Sludge - Vienna