Lord Vicar - Official Website

The Black Powder

Finland Country of Origin: Finland

The Black Powder
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Buy on: Bandcamp
Type: Full-Length
Release Date: April 26th, 2019
Label: Independent
Genre: Doom
1. Sulphur, Charcoal And Saltpetre
2. Descent
3. World Encircled
4. Levitation
5. The Temple In The Bedrock
6. Black Lines
8. Nightmare
9. A Second Chance

Review by Rosh on November 22, 2023.

This project has been, since its inception, a cornerstone of classic sounding doom as a more serious artform rather than just redundant riff-worship. I feel that neither big name band of the style which Lord Vicar's own Kimi and Chritus respectively come from, Reverend Bizarre and Count Raven, ever displayed a truly esoteric musical vision for doom metal that transcends its defining characteristics - both those bands simply played doom that danced with both the expected solemnity and a touch of absurdism, and never really went beyond making exquisite masterpieces like these. Lord Vicar, though, has proved to be a more substantial and memorable project than even those two bands whom I hold in high regard. In every sense they are a more unique, more defined vision that Kimi had post-Reverend Bizarre. Esoteric in a poetic and truly unpredictable sense, something I have a real liking for because it feeds originality. The music itself and the decipherable lyrics blend together beautifully on each of the four Lord Vicar full-lengths so far, crafting a brilliant set of dynamics that can portray with great emotional weight the band's heavy thematic overtones. Fear No Pain from 2008 is still the most approachable release they've done up to this point, since it balances so well between musical tendencies of both the Reverend and the Count, but even here it was clear that Kimi was doing something more distinctly his own, coming from deeper within himself, and this tendency only continued over the next decade (has it really been that long?).

In 2019, The Black Powder dropped, as a total surprise. The band humbly said something to the effect that this release was supposed to be layered, unfolding more and more of its artistic detail with each subsequent listen, and judging by their previous couple albums, I believed it. Their soundscapes had only become more diverse since the debut, yet Kimi's bludgeoning riff attack always seemed to prevail through all the atmospheric sections, and Chritus' vocals would adapt accordingly, thus proving his vocal range and personal investment in the band. And while The Black Powder isn't their most larger than life album, it is absolutely the most emotional, dynamic, and deeply resonant album they've crafted yet, due in no small part to its layered nature. Lord Vicar is still a relatively young band, yes, but this album has to be their creative peak and the ultimate realization of Kimi's superb musical vision.

Now, generally speaking, an outstandingly good album should feel just right regardless of whether it's relatively shorter or longer, because it gets the dynamics and pacing right. The Black Powder, though, is actually so varied that it seems to adjust to each respective listen in terms of duration, and multiple moods seem to bleed from each respective moment. The monumental opener, "Sulphur, Charcoal, and Saltpetre", which is, bar none, Kimi's greatest musical achievement so far, may feel a bit dreamlike so as to be uncannily familiar in its opening sequence, yet at the same time it feels esoteric and difficult to grasp thematically, to me at least. This is a doom metal record of course, but the heavy power chords seem all the more befuddling and abstract when they come in, mirroring an already vague moment with a fierce passion. But while the slow, heavy doom metal part of this piece is awfully perplexing and even somewhat unnerving, especially the hook of the first verse, the feel of the music becomes more emotionally accessible when it picks up a bit more of a rocking groove. The increase in tempo at certain moments is generally welcome in traditional doom for a number of reasons that mainly have to do with lending the music a natural feel, but Lord Vicar use it to evoke an entire palette of colors, emotionally speaking.

And they do offer more accessible doom fare across the next few tracks, while still having this mystique about them. "Descent", "World Encircled", and "Levitation" have these shades of melody that feel so fresh amidst an otherwise bottom-heavy riff swamp, but this is also where Chritus' vocals shine, since the music has just enough melody to compliment the emotion in his vocals, but not so much that it can really carry on and manage to be this engaging without such emotion. "Descent" is, to be sure, a more depressive piece but I get a sense of wistful hope from the other above mentioned songs as well as "Black Lines." The doomy esotericism still shines through during the bridge of the otherwise uptempo "Temple in the Bedrock" and the melancholic acoustics (which are just as distinct as the legendary acoustic segments on Epicus Doomicus Metallicus) return on "Nightmare", which is by far the most accurate yet unthinkable representation of our modern world in many ways. I do feel that "Impact" and the end of the closing track are totally contrary to that esoteric melancholic feel from some of the other songs, but they're uplifting in a manner that is just as esoteric.

Ultimately, Lord Vicar's fourth album is not their most approachable yet but is certainly their best - and it's honestly a contender for the best doom metal album of the 2010's. In fact, this album opened my eyes up to a new tier of albums - there's albums that merely feel like collections of songs, albums that feel like a cohesive experience, and then albums that can be anything you want them to be. This is one of those albums and they weren't kidding when they said it's meant for multiple listens. I swear the music adapts to your mood.

Rating: 10 out of 10