Lord - Desperation Finds Hunger in All Men - (8/10)
Published on January 26, 2019
To describe Lord in simple terms would be an insult to what they do on Desperation Finds Hunger in All Men. Releasing their debut album in 2011 and active for several years before that, the US five-piece from Virginia draw influence from the line-up’s previous experience, which includes plenty of members scattered around black, death, and stoner/sludge projects. That list of genres all make it into the band’s fourth full-length, though it is a truncated version of the whole, which should also include: noise rock, trad metal, doom, spoken word, and avant-garde. Just for example, fans of Gatekeeper and Visigoth might flock to “Whispering Snakes”, while “Scorched” exhibits awkward death metal bleeding onto doom metal vocal styles. The themes, as well, run from the injustice of the mining industry in Congo to recovery from depression. Say what you like about the mix of stuff on Desperation…, one thing is for sure – this is not a happy album.
Already well-known by their underground fanbase for the diversity of vocals, Steven Kerchner does a great deal of work for Lord to match and indeed exceed all the musical styles through which the band cycles. Though Lord exhibited a much clearer dual vocal approach on debut album Chief, the changes of members since then have left Kerchner’s multi-headed monster as the key source of death growls, sludgy bellows, semi-operatic singing, aching cleans, and (in all likelihood stemming from him) a few moments of sombre narration throughout the battleground of these 10 cuts. As such, his performance is always in focus despite the generally busy songs, even at moments when the lyrics are largely inaudible. Essentially, it doesn’t matter if you can hear the what Kerchner is singing about when “At First I Didn’t Believe It” gushes, chugs, and blasts its way ahead, since the anguish of the animalistic screams would communicate itself across languages and species, while some plainer, hardcore-influenced shouts deliver occasional messages of clarity. That this juxtaposes with the frailty of the singer’s hopeless thin singing on 12 minute closer “This Lonesome Linger” (on which female vocals feature, providing a link to the group’s past) shows the broad range that he covers, keeping the listener’s attention the whole time.
A point that could easily be made about Lord is that all this shape-shifting is done without showiness and seemingly without pleasure, disparate elements coalescing into a murky brown collage, rather like an artist mixing colours to form a single shade. The production plays a vital role in this process, restricting the guitars to a dry, scraping tone and rarely differentiating leads from the sonic morass. The bass finds more freedom during sparser sections, such as the epic opening to “La Fleur du Cobalt” where it teeters around tense riffs and melodies that draw from both sludge metal and post-rock. However, that 10 minute album centre-piece evolves into steady, dramatic narration by its mid-point, the rhythms rattling through not only Tony Petrocelly on drums, but also additional percussion that is credited to Kerchner on the group’s Bandcamp. The vaguely tribal beats are especially powerful during the painful exposure of how networks of multinational mining corporations have led to Congo’s desecration and destruction of past ways of life. The final warm-down of guitar squeals and noise maintains the extreme sensibilities, though again hammers home the feeling that nothing is fun about Lord’s work.
As a result of this method of mixing and appropriation, Desperation… stands undoubtedly as the group’s most artistically justifiable and comprehensive release, not least because it practically doubles the length of the previous full-lengths, all of which clocked in at under 40 minutes. The structure (or lack of) that governed previous efforts sees even greater expansion in the myriad lengths and shapes of this set of songs, “August 11, 2017” arguably forming the turning point of the album as an interlude filled with snippets of speech chronicling depression, leading on to a slight shift away from the apocalyptic visions expressed in the first half of the album, most notably on “Nature Knows No Kings”. That long piece rumbles on with layers of noise underlying the continuous outpouring of screams and hard-talking narration about “the separation of sheep and goats” in which the word “depredation” surfaces most frequently. The imminent destruction of everything does not stop on the nominal side B (not with a worrying death doom monster like “Mutilation Rights” lurking), yet a sort of acceptance sets into the music, just as a sort of acceptance signals the downfall of depression. It may be an overstatement to thus say that Desperation… acts as a concept album leading from looming disaster to the occasion and understanding of such a disaster, though a unifying thread runs through the material, however great the differences between sections.
The main difficulty when analyzing Lord’s music is who to recommend it to and in what words. As previously mentioned, none of the songs on Desperation… offer fun or grooves or riffs to headbang to, nor do the extreme elements result in simple battering percussion and an outlet of rage-filled shouting. The arrangements are too careful and deliberate to allow them to be actually liked, though a great deal of appreciation could be expended on the musicians’ skills and ideas. Instead, Lord operate more on the premise that their music is intriguing and will suck you in, much like the personal and global apocalyptic themes they deal in. On that level, Desperation Finds Hunger in All Men deserves all the praise it gets, because here lies an album that is individual and thoughtful beyond question. Whether it takes a hardened Neurosis fan or eclectic Oxbow nut to enjoy it may still be open for debate, but good stuff waits for all who dare venture within.