Portland’s progressive heavy band Lord Dying pack an extraordinary journey onto their new album Mysterium Tremendum, available now via eOne Music. The band transform pummeling sludgy, dark metal into an expansive exploration of the edge of consciousness, presenting a musical examination of just how far we can go. In their new album’s apparent estimation, the at least tentative answer is that there are no limits. Vocalist/guitarist Erik Olson says that on the band’s new album, they “wanted to think outside the box and really push ourselves outside of our comfort zone.” Lord Dying don’t stop with garnishes of piano solos, cleanly sung parts, or anything else along those lines, instead catapulting ahead into a remarkably organic narrative depicting part of the universe within our minds.
Their music itself communicates the band’s core aims, alongside their broader lyrical exploration of accessible but cosmic frontiers. In a broad sense, Mysterium Tremendum is a concept record, sometimes taking the perspective of a character traveling through various stages on the spectrum of life that have been magnified through sonically epic music. That figure is at least sometimes connected to the band members themselves, since Olson says he and guitarist Chris Evans “both kind of had a lot of death surrounding us or things that were close to it during the writing process.”
He explains further: “Mysterium Tremendum means different things to me and Chris. Essentially, for me it basically means that it’s kind of an encompassing of all things. But on the surface, we wanted it to be about death and also to kind of let the listener come up with their own interpretation of what it is. And then there’s other layers too — there’s also a central figure, a character. Some of the songs are from that character’s point of view. Some of them could be thought of as like tales about it also while examining our culture’s ideas of dealing with death and what we think of death.”
Although death is often perceived through a lens of finality in modern culture, sometimes marking the event as the end of a story — that’s not where Lord Dying stop, if you hadn’t guessed as much already. “The overall picture, the Mysterium Tremendum part of it is sort of about the journey we take, everything from life to death both pre-life and post — so, everything,” Olson quips, laughing over the sheer magnitude of what they’ve captured. Truly — it’s pretty epic.
The band have filtered a take on “the great beyond” into a form manageable for human consumption and enjoyment to the point of their epic record being sure to leave a mark. Enjoying finally getting a chance to dive deep into carefully combining a wide range of elements via meticulous songwriting, Olson even says that he felt inspired by cello concertos from Bach during Mysterium Tremendum‘s creation, which isn’t something that pops up super often in metal. “The album I feel like was definitely intended to be listened to as one solid piece of music,” he adds. “Even from the beginning we wanted to do that. We wanted the songs to move in and out of each other sort of like an expression of feelings. Going through it that way was kind of the intent. Everything down to the track order, the sequence was something that we put a lot of time into thinking about as well, even during the writing process. We knew when we wrote “Saying Goodbye to Physical Form,” that would be the last one. We knew right from the start not only that we wanted that to be the last song — sort of like the closing of the journey — but also we wanted it to be instrumental so the music could speak more for it than lyrics could. It was also important to us to try to convey that it made sense to let it start over and run again, so it was like one cyclical thing, the whole album — hopefully.”
The concept of the great mystery Lord Dying tap into via their new record continuing indefinitely is surely powerful, as is the fact that they’ve included this base element in their work. In our physical form, we may not be able to traverse the great, looming expanse — but we can approach it via means like Mysterium Tremendum.
Photo via Alyssa Herman
Listen below via Bandcamp. Olson says that Lord Dying are already working on new music that’s sure to be even more “compelling and grandiose” than before.