What better way to declare an album as your band’s longest yet than by starting off with its longest song? That seems to be the path that Lord Vicar has chosen as their fourth full-length, The Black Powder, begins with the seventeen-minute epic “Sulphur, Charcoal, and Saltpetre.” The track is somewhere between a prog suite and one of the band’s usual behemoths, cycling through acoustic bookends and a midway shuffle with plenty of meandering chugs in between. It’s an intimidating prospect but honestly not too far off from what the band has done before.
From there, the album dwells on the tried and true traditional doom sound that Lord Vicar has peddled for over a decade now. The songwriting is perhaps most comparable to 2011’s Signs of Osiris as select tracks include the odd quirk to go along with the drawn-out pummeling. “World Encircled” makes for an early highlight thanks to a certain alertness behind its slower pacing as well as its memorable chorus. I can also get into the Day of Reckoning-style breakdowns on “Levitation,” the steady grooves on “Black Lines,” and the appropriately dreamlike acoustics of “Nightmare.”
As with previous efforts, the musicianship is as tight and vibrant as ever. Kimi Karki’s guitar tone remains one of the best in doom, domineering over all with a watery cadence that lends itself well to both melodic flourishes and crushing chords. The vocals also manage to deliver in Chritus’ typical Ozzy-esque fashion. There are times where they come off rather haggard, particularly when the more distorted layering is applied, but they show a fair amount of dexterity throughout.
If The Black Powder isn’t the best Lord Vicar album overall, then it’s at least their strongest since their 2008 debut, Fear No Pain. While the slower tempos and long lengths can seem daunting, especially since it starts off with such a long runner, some varied songwriting helps keep things manageable. There are more accessible entry points into the world of Lord Vicar but if you happen to take a chance on this one first, odds are you won’t be disappointed.
“A Second Chance”