Lord Dying: Worshipping at 'Poisoned Altars'

Portland sludge-metal outfit issues sophomore LP
By Peter Lindblad

Lord Dying 2015 (Photos courtesy of
Danger Ehren Photography)
Lord Dying built up quite a head of steam going into 2015.

Adored by critics, their 2013 album Summon The Faithless was a beastly, monolithic horror that blotted out the sun, its writhing, skull-crushing riffs trawling through acres of sludge to bring ill tidings of death and despair to its hollow-eyed parishioners.

In the aftermath, they toured for 18 months, supporting such like-minded comrades as Red Fang and Black Tusk, among others, and in the spring of 2014, Lord Dying hunkered down in the studio with Toxic Holocaust's evil genius Joel Grind to record new audio devastation.

Due out Jan. 27 on Relapse Records, Lord Dying's sophomore effort, Poisoned Altars, builds off the promise of Summon The Faithless, prophesying an even heavier and more brutal sound, with giant hooks, catastrophic breakdowns, battle-scarred rhythms and roaring vocals that only High On Fire could love.

Based in gloomy Portland, Lord Dying is comprised of lead singer/guitarist Erik Olson, bassist Don Capuano, drummer Rob Shaffer and guitarist Chris Evans. Gathering together members of Portals, Le Force, Cremains and Black Elk, Lord Dying started out sharing bills with the likes of Unsane, Yob and Valiant Thorr and other local bands, and then hammered their way through the West Coast, before allying themselves with Kelly and Erica G to record their first release, a self-titled 7-inch mauler on Powerblaster Records. More touring followed with Black Cobra, Gaza and Witch Mountain.

With Poisoned Altars, Lord Dying is poised to become one of metal's most compelling and important bands. Olson talked about the band's development in this interview.

Lord Dying - Poisoned Altars 2015
Is there any special significance to the title of the album, Poisoned Altars?
Erik Olson: Yeah, Poisoned Altars means being aware of your problems and addictions and having the courage to face them regardless of the outcome. Or more specifically, if your beliefs are wrong, which could be for any reason, you first need to realize it and then actively try to change.

What is your favorite riff on the new record and how did it come to life?
EK: My favorite riff is the verse riff on "Offering Pain." It's fast and brutal, with a strong death-metal feel. The way it was written was spontaneous at rehearsal. We were arguing about something and rather than listen to the other side I just cranked up my guitar and started blasting. This was the result. We all decided we liked the riff and wrote a song around it.

The sophomore jinx is always talked about when a band has a debut album that's really good and makes an impact. Did you get any advice from anybody on how to avoid it or what to do to make a second album that will satisfy you?
EK: Not really. We were aware of the phenomenon, but tried to not worry about it too much. We wrote the album in the same way we always do – for us first and for others later. We're all really happy with the result.

Was this album easier or harder to make than Summon The Faithless?
EK: I think it was easier, because we knew while writing it we would be releasing it on Relapse, so we wanted all the songs to have a cohesive flow to them and feel like they belonged together, while also writing something that was more brutal and had more hooks than anything we'd done in the past.

What makes Portland a great metal town?
EK: The rent is the most affordable of any of the big cities on the West Coast, but I think the weather plays a big role in style and quantity of bands. It's overcast and raining for about nine months of the year, so Portland produces a lot of dark and heavy music, but because there's not much to do other than spend your time inside, people have a lot of opportunity to hone their craft and that's why a lot of the bands are so good. 

"Darkness Remains" is a great epic for a closer to the album. Talk about the making of it and why it seemed like a perfect one to end on.
EK: It was written really fast, right before we entered the studio and the lyrics and vocal parts were written right before Joe pressed record, so I guess because it was written so late in the game it felt like a good one to end the record with. Plus it's got kind of a huge melodic scope at the end and that felt like a good way to end the album as well!

How did working with Joel Grind help in bringing about your vision for the new record?
EK: We wanted Poisoned Altars to sound really huge, and we knew that Joel would be able to get that kind of sound for us because he always did on all the Toxic Holocaust albums.

What was your reaction to seeing the cover art for Poisoned Altars the first time?
EK: We saw it for the first time when we we boarding a plane to fly to California for Scion Rock Fest, so spirits were already pretty high, but we all loved it immediately. Orion is an amazing artist, and we totally trust his vision.

Lord Dying has toured with Red Fang.
Looking back on the progress of the band from the start to where you are now, what's different? 
EK: We've gone through a few drummers. Well, things are easier as far as touring goes, but it's still a struggle to afford to do it. We hope to be making a living doing this eventually. I guess every band does. We'll still be doing it either way. This is what we love to do.

What do you remember most about your first show or your first tour?
EK: Our first tour was a West Coast tour and our van broke down before we even made it to the California border. We had to get it towed to the first three shows! It was free because our roadie had AAA, but it was really funny to promoters to see us rolling up to every show on back of a tow truck! Good times!

What songs off Poisoned Altars are you most excited to play live?
EK: I really enjoy playing "A Wound Outside of Time." It's catchy and fun to play. I also really like playing "Darkness Remains." So far it seems to be the biggest crowd pleaser.

You've toured a lot with a number of big-name acts in metal, including Red Fang. What's the most fun you've had with any of them? Was there a point in the last 18 months where you felt touring was becoming a grind?
EK: I love touring and sure you can get exhausted, but I love doing it, so it never really feels like a grind. But yeah, the most fun would definitely be the European runs we did with Red Fang. Those guys are good friends of ours, so that made it fun, but they also are huge in Europe. We were playing rooms averaging from 800-1,200 capacity that were sold out every night. I'll never forget those tours!

Do you like it when people apply the terms "doom metal" or "sludge" to what you do? If not, what would you call your music?
EK: I don't really like to label our music, but if people feel like they have to I guess sludge is okay. I just don't want put barriers on what we can do. I feel like we write a lot of death-metal riffs, but that label only gets put on bands with guttural vocals, but ... whatever.

What are you most excited for in 2015 in terms of Lord Dying or anything else that has anything to do with music? Is there anything else that you're dying to do this year?

EK: I'm just really excited to start the touring for the Poisoned Altars album cycle and hope to get to travel and play in new parts of the world I haven't been to yet. Cheers!

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