Opium Lord- The Calendrical Cycle: Eye of Earth

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, July 5, 2015

I’ve always found that sludge/doom is at its best when there’s a grimier, seedier feel to the material that gets under your skin and invades every facet of a band’s music. With a name like Opium Lord, it seemed like a good bet that this British group would be able to offer what I was looking for and this proved to indeed be the case on their debut full length The Calendrical Cycle: Eye of Earth. It takes a little bit of time to fully sink in compared to some in the genre that might make a more immediate impression, but as the darker, grimier tones start to fully take over it becomes clear just how much staying power this material really has.

The majority of the music of this type I’ve reviewed in recent months has placed emphasis on being as overwhelmingly abrasive and heavy as possible, so Opium Lord comes across as being a bit more minimalist by comparison. That’s not to say that these songs don’t hit hard, as the drums batter away with a real sense of weight and when the instrumentalists ramp up the intensity it’s just as abrasive as one could want. But it’s not always the band’s primary focus, with slow burning melodic leads that have a very bleak and desolate sound taking the spotlight. Admittedly it isn’t until a few songs in that these elements really start to reach their peak level and fully take over, as even though they’re present throughout the entire album the rougher grooves seems to be emphasized a bit more early on. Once this happens the instrumentals completely sucked me in, and it’s at this point that Opium Lord reveals what truly distinguishes them from some of the other sludge bands. Harsher distortion gives way to the guitar melodies, which feel equal parts dark and foreboding and downright grimy, and they threaten to completely overwhelm you as you listen.

While the instrumentals alternate between rawer distorted grooves and melodic leads vocalist Nathan Coyle towers over them with a raspier scream. The Calendrical Cycle: Eye of Earth has been mixed in a way that puts a considerable amount of emphasis on the vocals, but they never fully overwhelm the rest of the material and instead add even more weight and rawness to the record. Coyle’s pitch expands naturally over the course of each song, and unlike some of the one-dimensional sludge vocalists out there his screams have natural peaks where they fill out a bit more and head into different ranges. The performance is well suited to the grimier, darker tonality that Opium Lord is going for with their music and is a significant part of why this album has some real staying power.

Opium Lord’s take on sludge/doom initially comes off seeming a bit more subdued and it took me a few times through it to fully get a feel for what was happening. But once that slow burn starts to sink in and you realize that the grime and grit of the songs have fully sucked you in this will be a record that will likely warrant a regular rotation. The strongest moments do seem to come towards the second half though and there’s further room for the instrumentals to explore their drearier melodic inclinations, but these guys are off to a fantastic start and seem to be heading off in a direction of their own early on in their career.


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