2013. For a while, I despaired. If we weren’t enduring an influx of faux post-hardcore ‘haircuts over content’, we were standing back as kids forgot how to breathe between growls and perfected their sporty-spice-style high kicks. Where was the passion, the conviction, the direction… the brutality? The big names in doom and hardcore continued to do no wrong, but I was longing for something new and hungry to burst onto the scene and blow the dust from my CD shelves. The answer was simple; Leeds-based hardcore-centric TDON records were scooping up some corkers and were ready to drip-feed us some gold. Don’t get me wrong, I love doom, I love sludge, I love anything that sounds like gargling brick dust, but I was long bored of stoner-centric lyricism and imagery. There’s more chance of me fitting a moose up my arse than touching a bong, so as much as I appreciate so many ‘insert ‘bong’ into bandname here’ acts, I often feel a bit of a wall develop as I delve deeper into many bands’ releases. Thankfully, Opium Lord seem to have shunned the ‘let’s put a goblin, planet or decapitated woman in there’ bandwagon and have come up with a brutal, bleak, heavy and gorgeously compelling sound all of their own. There are no cop-outs, no cheap laughs, no novelty imagery and no lull in each song’s aural assault.
The Calendrical Cycle (Prologue: The Healer) is merely a two-track EP, but delivers more in nine and a half minutes than many other bands do in a career. ‘Heroin Swirls’ feels heavier than lead, but rolls along with an unexpected groove, similar to early Sabbath… after an acid bath and a nervous breakdown. Vocally, we’re in a drone-free zone, with vocal lines often spat like poison darts or audibly torn apart. The whole EP is comfortably unnerving; the thick bassline holds you to your seat, while the vocals flay themselves apart. ‘Street Labs’ however, is on another level. With vocals taking a slightly black-metal turn at times, an often simplistic underlying riff quickly turns a slow, dragging break into a pounding, throbbing earth-shaker of a track. ‘Street Labs’ is vicious, powerful and impossible to sit still to. It’s easy to close your eyes and feel as though you’re bathing in the raw edges of a sound much larger than you’ve ever known.
Opium Lord are heavy, honed and as subtle as a brick to the chest. While we wait for the full album to manifest itself, The Calendrical Cycle will certainly do nicely as a stopgap.
4 out of 5 high fives!