Lyricist: Erik Olson.
Personnel: Erik Olson (vocals, guitar); Chris Evans (guitar); Rob Shaffer (drums).
Audio Mixer: Joel Grind.
Recording information: Audio Siege Studios, Portland, OR (05/2014).
The sophomore Relapse full-length from these Portland sludge hounds is a step up from 2013's solid if otherwise unremarkable Summon the Faithless. Clocking in at just 37 minutes, Poisoned Altars finds Lord Dying offering a full-force attack through eight tracks that leave the horde wanting more. What was initially attractive about this band was the intensely rhythmic guitar chug of Erik Olson and Chris Evans. They up that quotient exponentially here. Even when slowing things down to near doom/stoner pace ("A Wound Outside of Time"), they deliver infectious, propulsive grooves. This is possible due to the rock-solid, intuitive (and audible!) bass playing of Don Capuano, and the inventive kit work of Rob Shaffer. While forging a jagged-edged balance between the aggressive riffology of early Mastodon and the stoned-out vamping of High on Fire might seem easy on paper, just try it. But this quartet adds something of their own to the mix as well: excellent songwriting that shifts paces, dynamics, and tempos enough to make this unique -- even if all the elements are basic. The opening title track is a case in point with its sense of thudding, midtempo riffs offset by what amounts to an actual bridge, with a quick tempo shift bordering on hardcore thrash; due to interlocking bass and guitar grooves, however, it's something other. The sheer rhythmic invention in the intro to "The Clearing at the End of the Path" is singular, but the rest of the track is even meatier. Red Fang vocalist Aaron Beam helps out with a guest spot in the ripping assault that is "An Open Sore." "Sucking at the Teat of a She-Beast" commences as thrash metal before altering its cadences and segments while shifting dynamic tension between hardcore and sludge. Closer "Darkness Remains" melds different strains from the aforementioned bands as well as prime-era Trouble, in a nearly seven-minute squall that includes a killer, unhurried, and tasty guitar break. Its noisy conclusion sends the set out on stun. Throughout the album, Olson's vocals, a filthy yet easily understood growl, add the right balance between swagger and scream. While Summon the Faithless showed promise, Poisoned Altars delivers on it. This is hairy, hoary, ugly metal that digs muddy trenches in both the ears and the gut. ~ Thom Jurek