Where’s my dog collar?
Paul ‘pass the collection tray’ Castles settles down with Lord Vicar’s new release, out on May 27, via The Church Within Records
I caught the Swedish doom outfit Goatess at Scruffy Murphy’s in Birmingham last year, managing to interview frontman Lord Chritus, and found him highly entertaining and engaging company. So when offered the chance to cast an eye over a new release from one of his other projects, the redoubtable Lord Vicar, it was an opportunity I did not want to let slip through my fingers. Passing over the slightly incongruous situation where we have a ‘Lord’ singing in a band called ‘Lord’, Lord Vicar’s third album Gates of Flesh is a dark delight. And in fact Chritus is content with the slightly less noble Chritus Linderson, when taking the mic with Lord Vicar.
Chritus, whose own musical dynasty stretches back through the ages of doom to the mighty Saint Vitus and Count Raven, is not the only recognised figure within Lord Vicar’s ranks. Guitarist Kimi Kärki performed with Reverend Bizarre (when known as Peter Vicar) and was the driving force behind Lord Vicar when his former band pulled the plug in 2007. The final and not inconsiderable pieces of this doom behemoth are Sami Hynninen (previously Albert Witchfinder with Reverend Bizarre) and Gareth Millsted (once of Centurions Ghost). For the record Sami did not play bass on the album but is doing so for live shows. Bass responsibilities were shared during the recording of Gates of Flesh by Kimi and Gareth.
With two Finns, a Swede and an Englishmen, Lord Vicar carry that traditional lolloping vibe associated with 70s doom giants such as Witchfinder General, Pentagram and The Obsessed. It’s no wonder that they proved so popular when appearing recently at Doom Over London. Gates of Flesh was recorded by Joona Lukala at Noise for Fiction studio in Turku, Finland, last autumn, the band responding to the huge live room big enough to just about do justice to Lord Vicar’s seismic sound. In keeping with their old school approach this album is a vinyl only release with the songs themselves snappier than the extended drone delivery favoured by many of the new generation of doom bands.
Whilst this is definitely not a concept album, there is a loose lyrical theme relating to the pleasures and weaknesses of the flesh, hence the nymph images on the cover. ‘Birth of Wine’ is a wonderful opening number that would have the peas dancing on the end of your fork. It feeds voraciously off a hallucinogenic-like riff straight from a flares and denim 70s scrapbook. Chritus possesses such an irresistibly warm and seductive voice that you never tire of it. When the rhythms effortlessly fall into place, with a couple of tickling solos thrown in, Lord Vicar create a masterful composition, one that gradually disappears over the horizon to a spaced out riff.
On ‘The Green Man’ the buzz is a shade sharper, Chritus more forceful and the plunging bassline dropped much lower, creating a warm hum that pulls itself over you like a trusty old comfort blanket. After a warm melancholic instrumental piece, the doom descends defiantly again on ‘Breaking the Circle’ which opens commandingly with a pounding beat and proceeds to get better once the vocals arrive and against a backdrop of clattering cymbals and a rockin riff that shakes with the scent of Sabbath. While ‘Accidents’ is another punchy persuader ‘A Woman out of Snow’ offers a more soulful dimension, with Chritus crooning gently through the early part of the song before we’re treated to some scintillating riffwork as Lord Vicar revert to type and rekindle the spirit of the early doom pioneers.
This is an album in which you can immerse yourself, none more so than on the 10-minute closer ‘Leper, Leper’, a masterful doom tome, heavy in tone and emotion. There is enough craft and guile to make for a compulsive listening experience and the slumbering opus gradually stirs towards the end, Chritus reaching a crescendo as he crys in anguish, ‘Leper, you used to be so beautiful’.
8 out of 10
- Birth of Wine
- The Green Man
- A Shadow of Myself
- Breaking the Circle
- A Woman out of Snow
- Leper, Leper