Perhaps only in the realms of mathematics and religion are conversions so easily admitted. Think about it. How hard would it be for the U.S. to go metric? It can’t be that hard; everybody else is doing it. Or what about Catholicism to Scientology? Come on, we’re talking apples and apples. But try converting a well-informed, opinionated and self-described rock ?°»n’ roll elitist (i.e., your average Pitchfork-reading indiephile) to your new band.
But the band, Lords, has for the better part of two years has been doing just that. Hailing from Louisville’s prominent underground music scene, Lords has released two albums, been touring for the majority of their existence and kept busy converting new fans with their own vicious brand of anything-but-straightforward heavy rock.
Their first full-length, Swords, out on Jade Tree, is a manic hybridization of punk, hardcore, and metal—an impossibly massive-sounding opus to the potential of visceral, abrasive and all around really fuckin’ loud music. The band’s ability to eschew categorization, while heralding what feels like an enlightenment era in heavy music, explains the appeal to listeners outside that scene.
Regarding their sound, however, singer and guitarist Chris Owens offers anything but hubris. As he revealed to me after a scathing show at Portland, Ore. bar Sabalas : “Let it be said on the record that what we do is not new. It’s been done so many times before us.” Owens himself has been playing in bands for ten years, and with drummer Stan Doll since 2000. Lords actually evolved from an earlier Louisville group, The Slow Suicide, which included Kevin Sacks of National Acrobat. After Sacks left the band, Steve George (also of Louisville’s National Acrobat) and Billy Bisig joined briefly, and Lords was born. By spring 2003, Owens and Doll found themselves pared back down to a two-piece. They recorded and produced their debut E.P., The House That Lords Built (on now-defunct Initial Records), which Doll also created the art for. Doll and Owens have since played with a number of bassists. Their current lineup includes Tony Bailey.
As Owens, articulate and amiable — somewhat surprising considering what kind of meat-ripping goes on onstage — describes the band’s influences, he casts a wide net — many from their hometown.
“My biggest single influence right now is Kinghorse. They were all about making this intense and furious, yet incredibly intelligent, music. That’s sort of what I’ve been trying to do with Lords.”
Along with Kinghorse, Owens adds Louisville’s math rock progenitors, Slint, and the legendary band evergreen to that foundation. Since the release of The House That Lords Built, critics have assigned their spiritual ancestry to plenty of big-name hardcore and metal forefathers, from Black Flag to Black Sabbath. But if this is the new Sabbath, it’s Sabbath on Androstene.
The newly released Swords plays as a tutorial in maddeningly elaborate riffing percussive brutality. Though temporally lightweight (thirteen tracks in twenty minutes), the album offers no breathers and few moments requiring casual attention. The opening salvo, Stigmata Rites, makes it immediately apparent Lords is a formidable band, blending increasingly complex arrangements with an immediacy and muscularity reminiscent of ?°»80’s punk, metal and anything speedy. Tracks like Lift High the Mighty Throne and She Is the Last slow things down a bit (for roughly one minute), as Doll’s drumming stamps out a concussive time signature into Owen’s fitted grooves. (Matt Jaha, former drummer of Coliseum and Black Cross, also shows up playing bass on several tracks.) Everywhere else on the album, the trio pretty much go totally apeshit, albeit apeshit with a measure of precision, a seeming dichotomy that ultimately leaves a messy exit wound on each side of the listener’s head.
Alongside Swords, Lords will continue to rupture eardrums and make converts out of the uninitiated at their loud-as-hell live shows. They’ll be touring the East Coast and Europe this fall. Consider yourself warned.