Review of Awake by Lord

Band: Lord
Album: Awake
Release Date: 18 March 2016
Record Label: heavy Hound Records
Buy on CD ($9.99) or digital ($7) from: Bandcamp

Awake by Lord

Lord is a local band that I’ve been a fan of for some time here at DCHM so I’ve been excited we’re finally getting more songs from them. The following review is from DCHM writer Buzzo Jr who certainly has his opinions about the release. Be sure to give the songs a listen at the bottom of this post.

The Fredericksburg, Virginia, based stoner/sludge outfit Lord returns with their newest full length album Awake, following up their sophomore release Chief from 2011. The band has seen a few lineup changes in the past five years; with drummer Steven “Sven” Sullivan being replaced by Kevin Marimow, and Helena Goldberg (also of Virginia stoner/sludge band Akris) handing bass duties over to Chris Dugay. Lord’s third full length outing has them sticking with the familiar southern sludge they’ve been known for.

In a good amount of cases, an album’s production can be the key element that will make or break the listening experience. Lord’s newest full length is unfortunately a prime example of the latter. Awake has all the elements necessary to make a great sounding stoner/sludge album, but all of those elements are muddled by the album’s overall audio production. The first thing I noticed about the production was how raw it was. Now, raw production can work very well for sludge metal in some cases. Bands like New Orleans’ Eyehategod and England’s Iron Monkey utilize raw production to accentuate the harsh and nihilistic feel of their music. But with sludge bands like Lord who incorporate more melodic and psychedelic elements into their sound, an extremely raw production on the album will negate any of the effect they may have been going for. The guitar and the bass are the first two casualties of this. The riffs on all of the tracks lack a great deal of the punch that they had on Lord’s first two albums which is disappointing seeing as they had the potential to be absolutely crushing if not for the way the mix drowns them out, and the bass lines are almost inaudible for a majority of the running time. The guitar solos also take a hit; with all of the melody and feeling of them sapped away by how muddy the end result is. The drumming suffers from similar issues, with the pounding drumbeats we heard on their first two albums being replaced by a heavily muffled sound that really takes away from the overall experience. It’s definitely not as bad as Lars Ulrich’s tin can monstrosity from Metallica’s St. Anger album, but it’s definitely not the best I’ve heard from Lord.

The element that is most negatively affected by the raw production are Steven Kerchner’s vocals. The vocals on Awake alternate from multi layered mid ranged howls, low grunts, and high pitched screams. A glaring difference from the previous album Chief is the lack of the clean and melodic vocals that former member Helena Goldberg supplied; giving a contrast to Kerchner’s harsher vocal styles. The variety of Kerchner’s vocal deliveries is unable to overcome the fact that for most of the time the vocals on the album are drowned out by the other instruments and the raw haze that the production puts on the record. Out of all the vocal styles that Steven alternated between, his high pitched scream is actually the one that ends up sounding the best, due to it being the one that was able to cut through the rest of the instruments and become fairly audible in comparison. The one track on this album that did stand out to me however was “The Great Communicator;” an all acoustic track that showcases a great deal of southern influence in the guitar playing, along with a great vocal performance that sounds much better than on any of the other tracks, mostly due to the fact that there are fewer elements in the song, thus allowing the echoing vocals to create a hazy atmosphere that resonates along with the bluesy strumming of the acoustic guitar. “The Great Communicator” is a standout example of the potential the rest of Awake had, and hopefully they can learn from this and release a much better record next time around. However, I am very interested in seeing these songs performed live, as it’s likely that they will translate far better in a live setting. I’m sure “The Great Communicator” will be a great track to bust out at the midway point in the live show to bring in a more mellow tune. [Editor’s Note: Lord will be playing in Fairfax, Virginia, on Saturday, May 14th. Details here.]

Third time is unfortunately not the charm for Lord’s newest release, and if you are looking to get into them I would recommend that you start off with their Chief album instead (get it here). Here’s to hoping that Lord go back to the great production of their second album and give us a quality fourth release in the future.

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