Review by Greg Noble
Lord of the Lost’ “Thornstar”
his is the 7th album for Lord of the Lost and is based around the theme of a doomed advanced civilisation called the Pangaeians. This review is for the Deluxe Version, which includes 20 tracks
that total an hour and 29 minutes.
Please get comfortable, ensure your seat is in the upright position and that your tray table is locked away.
“On This Rock I Will Build My Church” steps forward with stomping riffs that have a march-like quality. We are introduced to Chris Harms’s substantial vocals – both in terms of range and intensity. His body of work is diverse, with him engaging in acoustic, classical and Latin crossover projects. One moment he’s growling, the next he’s crooning, then he’s screaming, then he’s charming birds down from the trees… only to have them explode when he growls again. This track introduces us to the theme of the album. Reverb is used to great effect, as are vocal harmonies. The intense style of lyrics are made plain, with “we are destroying what we’ve created” being a good example.
“Loreley” has a synth-heavy opening and the vocals are cleaner than in the previous track. It gallops along with many layers of sound in evidence, interspersed with Harms’s vocal range for dramatic effect. A complex bass line adds much emotion to the theme of a complicated relationship.
“Black Halo” has an orchestral opening, showing that Lord of the Lost is not frightened to use a variety of different styles. This is further expanded upon when the use of synths give this track a pop-like feel, which had me wondering where this track came from. Then, a pumping bass and intricate piano work dance together. A tempo change introduces us to a methodology often used on this album – that each track has a form and life of its own, often telling a story utilising different moods. This track has a haunting quality. An orchestral arrangement is used to close this track, bookending it nicely.
“In Our Hands” has an electro opening that sounds like a computer or machine. It’s techno-like and flows on well from the last track. The catchy chorus engaged me with the subject matter of the track, that of battling self-doubt.
“Morgana” has a busy opening of keyboards, then all elements combine steadfastly. It soon falls away to a simple rhythm, swelling again to a richer sound. Despite this, it didn’t really grab me.
“Haythor” cracks open with a dirty, distorted riff and vibrating bass. Some clever syncopation and malevolent vocals are given weight by a drop tuned riff. The clever chorus had me humming at first listen. There was a section on this track that was particularly powerful - thumping percussion, gravelly vocals and distorted guitars.
“Naxxar” opens with an evil presence in the background, along with hums and piano elements, then it thickens dramatically. An operatic riff then features. The layers of this track are surprising – sometimes a tinkling piano, at other times compelling percussion. It gave me a real sense of struggle and the use of a staccato riff gave it a workmanlike quality.
“Cut Me Out” is given life with intense breathing. The track is about being left alone in the darkest hour and the emotion is heightened through the use of distorted guitar riffs. Harms hits higher notes here and shows that he can hold them. This track displays the multi-charactered nature of the band’s work, shifting gears with ease. It had me experiencing forgiveness and regret as I listened.
“The Mortarian” marches forth with a military inspired, driving riff. The lyrics urge us to “fight as one, without compassion” and Harms’s vocal stability and integrity is again abundantly clear. This track absolutely thrashes later and a piano is used to wind it down.
“Under the Sun” rises with a synth/ electro dawning that has great percussion shining through. Guitar riffs then heighten the urgency, for the track to soon fall away. Again, many layers are used to great effect and the bass line is killer.
“In Darkness, In Light” changes the sound again, with quite a peculiar (for this record) opening that adds an intriguing atmosphere. It’s piano heavy and the title is repeated a number of times in a track that slows the pace a little.
“Forevermore” featured a piano/ synth opening and it has pop influences. It drives hard later in the track and I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of it. The theme of the track is one of being together through trials and tribulations.
“Ruins” is bass-heavy and the distorted guitars gave me feelings of expansive desolation. It then kicks in with gravelly vocals and pounding bass. Layers are used cleverly, with cymbals and guitar pinches emerging unexpectedly. It’s a track of many characters and would serve as a good ending to the standard edition of this album.
Deluxe Version Tracks, or CD2
“Abracadabra” got my attention immediately, for a number of reasons. It features Dero from OOMPH! I have been a fan of his, and their, work for a long time. It also got my attention because it is a significant departure from what I heard from the previous tracks. It is a good bit heavier and has a machine gun-like arrangement. Dero’s vocal presence is used sometimes in vocals, then harmonies, then as vocal elements to add to the lyrics. Dero’s background as a drummer is apparent, as the percussion is a good deal more complex. It is a dance inspired track that features Dero’s quirky take on things.
“Voodoo Doll” is a prickly beast. The lyrics are very clever, including “pins and needles”, “you have no power here” and “I don’t feel you anymore”. Piano is used to anchor the track, with a wall of guitar riffs then casting a spell. It’s simple and effective as it speaks of not being controlled by anyone.
“The Art of Love” has the synths giving the emotional tone at the beginning, which are then answered by the guitars. It has an intense sound and it had me really paying attention to the elements of the track. It is complex, like the subject matter.
“Lily of the Vale” had me expecting something achingly beautiful to blossom. What slithered forth was a symphonic opening that exploded into a poisonous nettle. “Destroy! Destruct! Dismember!” The track is urgent in nature, angry and demented. It would be a blast to engage with live! It fades and I relaxed… Then it burst forth and stung me once again!
“Penta” begins in a slow and reflective mood, with a percussion that soon thickens. Intricate bass and synths are joined by robust vocals. It’s another track with multiple characters and sometimes the calm vocals belie the challenging lyrics…
“Free Radicals” begins with groovy percussion, soon joined by a robust guitar riff and then the synths. It is a change of pace and the lyrics again had me hanging on every word, with examples like “seek control in the malicious mirror” and “stench of wine and toxic sweat” being good examples.
“Live Pray Die Repeat” rounds off the record with screaming and growling vocals and meaty riffs. It calms soon in sound and density, but not in intent. Harms again shows he can hold a note and the synths and guitars are prominent. The ending is intriguing – it is swampy and stilted and gradually finishes with a malfunctioning reverberation.
Whilst the album is meant to be listened to from start to finish, the tracks also stand up on their own. They offer commentary about the decline of a civilisation, but this is where this art imitates our lives – struggle, crises of the faith, unity to overcome adversity and battling self-doubt.
The tracks often open with intensity and vigour. These calm, with clear vocals, lulling you into a false sense of security, only to wind up and launch forward with ferocious vocals and intense layers, only to repeat. Or not. You’re never sure.
Don’t hear the first track and think that this will be a metal album. The first track is indeed metal, but the Lord of the Lost is much more than that – their work is a constantly shifting and evolving project – across the album and in most tracks. Get comfortable with that and you’ll see this work for what it is – work without boundaries. It can be metal, or anthemic, or rock, or pop, or industrial, or gothic.
It’s riff driven, but not solo dominated. In some places it reminded me of Mono Inc., or Type O Negative, or Depeche Mode. It’s accessible in nature in some parts, bass pounding in others and confronting in still others.
This album reminds me of the quirky friend that we all have. This friend is honest and true, but has a range of temperaments. You can see all of these moods, sometimes over a few weeks, other times in a short space of time. Whatever the duration of these moods, you’ve known this person for a long time and enjoy their company because life is never dull around them. They’re good to have around.
Like this record.