Lord Dying – Prepping the AltarsMonday, 26th January 2015
Summon the Faithless immediately positioned Lord Dying as a force to be reckoned with. Thrusting headlong into touring, it didn’t take the band long to become labeled as a live act worth catching. Their riff-centric approach to heavy metal is one that tends to shine in the live setting. But one can’t keep touring for one album alone, and when it comes to recording that second album, many bands seem to stumble and falter. But not Lord Dying.
Poisoned Altars takes Lord Dying’s sound and intensifies it. While it may contain some catchy melodies, it’s clearly a darker and heavier record than Summon the Faithless. It’s an album that should see more and more people getting behind the band and the sound they’ve carved out for themselves. Getting a call from guitarist/vocalist Erik Olson, we discussed the progression towards Poisoned Altars, the band’s jaunts on the road, even the effect of weather on the Northwest.
Dead Rhetoric: The sound of Lord Dying doesn’t easily classify itself into any easy categories. Is there a way that you guys describe yourselves?
Erik Olson: Really, first and foremost it’s a metal band. There’s a lot of elements of thrash and death metal. We get called sludge a lot, which I guess is okay but not really something that we would call it. We’re a metal band. It’s definitely heavy, with lots of tempo changes. I don’t really like to classify things under a certain term. Then you might get boxed into that kind of a sound.
Dead Rhetoric: Being your second album, how does Poisoned Altars differ from Summon the Faithless?
Olson: I think that it definitely represents us more as a band right now. We worked really hard since Summon the Faithless came out. We had a rigorous touring schedule, and I feel like the songs are better. We wanted to write an album where the collection of songs were much more cohesive, while also being really heavy. We wanted it to be more brutal and catchier. I’m happy with the way Poisoned Altars turned out.
Dead Rhetoric: With the extra cohesion you are talking about, does that stem from it being your second album? Having a specific window to put it out, versus your first release when you have more time to put things together?
Olson: Right. When we wrote for the first album, Summon the Faithless, that was just all of the songs that we had written up to that point. Those songs were never necessarily meant to be together on the same album, like Poisoned Altars was. That’s what was cool about Poisoned Altars. When we wrote that, we knew that the songs were going to be together and represented on an album. We wanted it to have a really good flow and sound huge. A lot of bands can suffer from the sophomore slump and we wanted to top what we did with the first one, and want to do that with every release.
Dead Rhetoric: You worked with Joel Grind, do you feel he brought anything else to Poisoned Altars?
Olson: Yeah, he was great to work with. If there are any indications that it might have sounded a little more punk, it would definitely be because of him [laughs]. He didn’t really have much of a hand in the way that the songs were structured or anything. We wrote everything, but he helped me at times with things like vocal phrasing and overall, he’s responsible for why the record sounds so huge. That’s why we wanted to work with him because I feel like he has done that with all the Toxic Holocaust records. Especially the last two, I really like Conjure and Command and the production he got on that. I feel like he did a really great job [on the album], we would love to work with him again in the future. It was awesome.
Dead Rhetoric: You lost your original drummer and you brought in Rob Shaffer to do the recorded drums on Poisoned Altars. Is he going to become a full-fledged member or no?
Olson: Actually no. He helped us with the recording and then he did a tour with us when we toured with Corrosion of Conformity last August. Now we have another guy [Nickolis Parks] playing drums, but yeah, Rob had to step down. He was going to be a full-time member but he ended up having some personal things happen and he is going to be moving to Florida. So it didn’t make as much sense to have him. We are really happy with the job he did and what he did for us; he helped us in a tight spot. But yeah, we have another drummer and we are really excited about him too.
Dead Rhetoric: I thought the artwork [for Poisoned Altars] was really cool. Can you sort of explain what is going on or if there’s any sort of meaning behind what’s there?
Olson: The artwork was all Orion’s [Landau] idea. He was also responsible for the art on our first album, Summon the Faithless. We loved the way that it came out so much, we just gave him the title and trusted him to come up with whatever he thought would fit that. He’s great! He really understands the band and has been behind us since the beginning. He works at Relapse, and does some freelance stuff as well. We just trust his artistic vision, and we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. We love it, I’m pretty stoked about the artwork.
Dead Rhetoric: There seems to be bands on both extremes, where they are nitpicking every little detail and you guys were just…do what you want with it. That’s pretty cool.
Olson: We left the vision up to him as far as the content of it. But we did want it to be a painting, just like the last one. I love a lot of the covers from the old death metal albums. Death being one of those bands. I feel like our last one was very reminiscent of Leprosy, with the bright, weird colors, and I really like Dan Seagrave too. Using lots of colors and having it be a painting; everything else was up to Orion.
Dead Rhetoric: Being from the Northwest, Portland specifically, do you feel that the weather puts much of an impact on the sound you guys have?
Olson: Yeah, I think that it does for us and that it’s a common thing in Oregon and the Northwest in general. A lot of bands here are very doom and gloom oriented bands and we are definitely a product of the weather. I also feel like the quality of the bands too, there are so many great bands coming out of here. I think that’s due to the weather too. Being that 9 months out of the year it’s not good weather to go outside, so when you are forced inside it gives you a lot more time to work creatively on your music.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been involved with that big movement out in the Northwest, is there anything else that comes to mind, besides the weather, on why so many bands are coming out of here?
Olson: I think that the Northwest has always had a rich musical background. Particularly Portand and Seattle. The bar has always been pretty high here. A lot of musicians like to move here, I can speak for Portland. I think they move here because there’s always been such a good music scene and it’s easy to be a musician here. The rent’s really cheap and there’s so many artists and musicians here. There’s a lot of service industry jobs too, so a lot of people will do that who are playing music. Then they tour, and if they have to quit their job it’s not that difficult to find a new one once you get in. And you can keep doing that. I think that’s a big part of it.
Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of touring, Lord Dying is pretty much a touring machine. What motivates you to keep going night after night?
Olson: We love touring. We love performing and playing in front of a crowd. We’ve done lots of tours, big ones and small ones. We are just going to keep on doing it. We have plans to try to top our touring schedule from our last album so hopefully that happens.
Dead Rhetoric: Are there any specific highs/lows that you’ve experienced specifically on tour?
Olson: Highs – the European tours we did with Red Fang were amazing. The venues were on average from 800 to 1200 people and they were sold out every night. It was split up into two tours but we did that for about 7 weeks and that was great playing in front of huge crowds every night like that.
As far as low points, our first tour. I booked that one myself. The shows were okay, but the van broke down before we even left Oregon. So we spent the first four days getting towed to each show. We had AAA, so we just got towed every day. That was kind of a nightmare. It’s a little bit easier now than it was in the beginning.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you end up having to pay a large amount of money if you were using AAA to go show to show?
Olson: A roadie we had with us had platinum coverage so we weren’t charged for the tows. All the tows were free. In that sense, it actually saved us money on gas, because we weren’t paying for anything. But by the time we got to Oakland, which was like the third show, we ended up just having to leave the van there, and rent a new one to finish the tour. The van was beyond anything we could afford to have fixed.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that your workhorse approach to touring has earned you more fans?
Olson: Yeah, I think so. That’s one of the reasons we keep going out there is to play in front of new crowds. And the response has been getting better and better. I think new people are coming out.
Dead Rhetoric: You jumped into things pretty quickly with Relapse and touring pretty much since then, do you have any advice to a band who is just trying to get their foot in the door.
Olson: Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. We didn’t expect this to happen. It’s really hard work and it can destroy everything you have going on in your life at home when you tour that much. Make sure your heart is in it for sure. Work really hard and just keep touring. That’s the only way to get the attention of labels; do it yourself first. We did 5-6 full US tours before Relapse was interested in us, and those were really difficult. But you have to keep doing it and if you believe in it, that’s what matters the most.
Dead Rhetoric: I had to laugh a bit looking at your bio on the Relapse site. You mentioned “cold beer, warm shower,” I haven’t heard that since I was in college. Is this an approach to the road or just life in general kind of thing?
Olson: I guess it’s more of a life in general kind of thing. It’s very refreshing you know, to have a nice cold beer when you are in a hot shower [laughs]. It’s awesome.
Dead Rhetoric: You will be touring with Anvil next month. What are you looking forward to the most?
Olson: Really, we are just looking forward to getting out there and playing some songs off Poisoned Altars. And this is going to be a different crowd than we’ve played for on other tours. Hopefully we can win some of their fans over.
Dead Rhetoric: Any new tracks you are looking forward to pulling out in the live venue?
Olson: I really like playing “Darkness Remains” and “A Wound Outside of Time.” Both of those will be great to play every night.
Dead Rhetoric: What can we expect to hear from Lord Dying for 2015?
Olson: There is going to be a lot of touring. We hopefully will have another release by the end of the year or in 2016. It will be an EP that we have been working on.
Dead Rhetoric: What is the EP?
Olson: It’s just stuff we’ve been writing. It’s going to be a lot more brutal. More death metal oriented, but not so much death metal singing, but far more brutal riffs. There will also be a few lush sounding acoustic, somber pieces on there too.