This is not for everyone, I realize that. But to me, upstate NY based Doom slayers ‘Bastard Lord’ with their self-titled debut-album, is one of the best manifestos in the genre ever. Period.
Of course, statements like that are always highly subjective, ultimately it always comes down to personal preference rather than an unbiased assessment. That said, I stand by my words and I will explain in a little bit why I’m belaboring that point so much. Before I do that, though, let’s first focus on what ultimately matters most, namely the actual material on ‘Bastard Lord’.
The EP features four tracks, ‘Cimmerian’, ‘ Wormwood’, ‘Summoner’ and ‘Into the Sea’ with a total playing time of approximately 40 minutes, during which the listener will find himself exposed to an onslaught of relentless sonic sucker-punches while riding on a doom-laden psychedelic trip to Mars and back. I am still undecided as to whether or not this record works better when listening to it from beginning to end in one session, or consuming the individual tracks as separate entities. Both works for me, but I’m inclined to say that the former approach gets you the most out of this album. As mentioned in my ‘Bastard Lord’ video review, the EP has a nice flow to it and therefore lends itself to listen to it as a whole.
What it doesn’t lend itself to, and I realize I didn’t mean to get into that so early in this review, is a high-end mixing and production effort. ‘Bastard Lord’ sounds exactly how they supposed to sound. Minimalistic, because the focus is on the music and the sound, and not on knick-knacks or 5 Million layers of overdubs. Yet massive, because the band executes its material as a unified force, where each chord and note is pushed and ridden to the limit. Repetitive, meditative, trippy are a few more adjectives to describe the plain, yet complex sound and music performed by ‘Bastard Lord’.
Does this sound a little bit like Sleep and perhaps some early Sabbath, like Master of Reality or Volume 4? I think so. Now add a little bit of ‘Planet Caravan’, specifically Ozzy’s vocal delivery on that tune, and you get a rough idea of the general framework within Bastard Lord operates. To be very clear, I categorically refrain from comparing bands to each other, so the aforementioned reference to Sabbath and Sleep are merely for illustration and example purposes.
Looking at the illustrative cover work featuring what I think is some imagery of a 70ies Horror Movie (I could be totally wrong here…) and based on the fact that I had not heard anything from the band before other than their name, I was initially afraid I was going to be listening to some sort of screamo stuff or growling on the vocals. Well, why I thought that remains a mystery. But it doesn’t matter, fortunately none of my concerns turned out to have merit. The vocals are incredibly well delivered and to me, the trippy/echo-y psychedelic vibe is nothing short of a brilliant, balancing factor in light of the otherwise omnipresent ‘heaviness’. This opposition or dichotomy is exactly the very reason why this album works so well for me. This is not easy to pull off, I have no illusions. This could have gone wrong, but it didn’t. Quite the opposite!
One last point. I heard that the band and the album got some negative reviews because of the production/sound quality. Personally, I have no idea what these people are talking about. Look, to my earlier point, everybody feels different and everybody is absolutely entitled to their opinion. However, for those who criticize the retro/analog vibe and feel, I honestly believe you missed the point. I don’t say this lightly, because I’d like to think of me as a tolerant and liberal person. However, I’m really perplexed by the notion that this album should have been produced in a more state-of-the-art way with a more modern sound. Because that would have ruined the whole thing, for crying out loud! The material on Bastard Lord, as well as the band’s approach to their music, is simply not conducive to a production like the new Dream Theater, for example. Likewise, Dream Theater fans wouldn’t want their band’s new release to be produced like a 70ies heavy-rock record, would they?
Anyway, enough of that. I love this album, I truly do. Everything came together for me as a fan. I was told a new full-length Bastard Lord record will become available soon. I have mixed emotions about that. On one hand, I’m afraid that the new release may not live-up to my now ridiculously high expectations. On the other, I can’t wait to hear more Bastard Lord material. Dammit!
Well, look, I just hope that David, Mike and Jeremy will continue to do their thing and not start deviating too much from the path they started on. They did a killer job on their debut release and if you haven’t had a chance to listen to them, then do it NOW.
Bastard Lord is Jeremy Coupe on drums, David Braymiller bass and vocals, Mike Herman guitars.