German metal outfit LORD OF THE LOST is by far one of the most influential and creative bands to have emerged on the Gothic metal scene this past decade. Over the course of six studio albums and almost twice as many live albums, compilations, and EPs, Chris “The Lord” Harms and his bandmates have pushed the boundaries of their musical style in various directions, from Gothic and industrial to acoustic and even classical. Now LORD OF THE LOST are getting ready to unleash their newest and boldest creation, “Judas,” out on July 2nd, 2021, via Napalm Records.
It is said that every superhero needs a villain to prove their worth and, the worse the villain is and the more violent their battle is, the more celebrated the superhero is once they win. This idea of good versus evil is way older than comic books, actually dating back to biblical times. God needed to cast Lucifer out of the Garden of Eden to attest His reign and Jesus needed Judas to fulfill his destiny. This tale of betrayal and suffering became the basis of the Christian faith. But what if things are not as black-and-white as the Bible makes them out to be? What if Judas is not the wicked traitor that Christians around the globe think he is? These are the ideas that LORD OF THE LOST are debating on their massive double album, “Judas.”
Musically, the album moves between genres being grand in scope, deeply atmospheric, layered, and cinematic, with impressive piano/organ orchestrations and excellent choir sections that elevate the music by giving it a churchy vibe. The first part of the album, titled “Damnation,” is darker and heavier with undertones of melancholy and sorrow running through the songs. On the other hand, the second part, “Salvation,” feels a bit lighter and softer with many piano-driven sections and mellow instrumental breaks. It is almost as if these two parts mirror each other by presenting the metamorphosis of Judas from traitor to martyr, thus creating a sort of Jekyll and Hyde experience for the listener. That’s not to say that “Damnation” doesn’t have any soothing moments, or that “Salvation” doesn’t have any raw passages, because the music is entwined in such a way as to balance the two parts all the while bringing the apocryphal story of Judas to life in a harmonious way. With that being said, the overall less metallic nature of this record may deter some from fully appreciating “Judas” for what it is, and that is entirely their loss.
The twenty-four songs that make out “Judas” stand at the crossroad of Gothic metal and church music, but not falling fully into any of these categories. As lead single “Priest” already showcased, the sound is big and engrossing, with an atmospheric feel and cinematic edge and to it, while second single “For They Know Not What They Do” has a hymn-like melody beautifully carried by a choir of voices to which Chris Harms‘ growls give a sinister twist. Such songs like “Your Star Has Led You Astray,” “Born With a Broken Heart,” or “The Heart is a Traitor” rely on distorted guitars, clean and harsh vocals, and some piano/organ melodies that boast their darker atmosphere in true LORD OF THE LOST style.
Sorrowful pieces “The 13th” and “In the Field of Blood” have some haunting backing vocalizations that make the feeling of gloom and melancholy be almost overbearing; “Death is Just a Kiss Away” accomplished this mood by using strings, a church organ, and Chris Harms‘ emotional vocal delivery. Lyrics like “I fell from heaven straight to hell / My kiss much more than a farewell” (from “2000 Years a Pyre“) or “Leave me to mourn for what I’ve done / I have no need for anyone” (from “In the Field of Blood“) present Judas in a different light to the stone-cold traitor the biblical version paints him to be, by making him more humane, while the musical backdrop enhances the storytelling aspect of the songs. The closing track for the first disc, “The Death of All Colours,” feels like an elegy for Judas and his actions, while such verses as “I begged him to betray / So he’s not the one to blame” or “Your kiss leads to the death of all colours / For your life will be all pallid too” enforce this idea. Again, the backing choirs give depth and a religious vibe to the music.
Moving on to the second part, “Salvation” starts full force with “The Gospel of Judas” and “Viva Vendetta,” whose melodic choruses are in contrast to the powerful guitars and occasional harsh vocals. Gared Dirge’s superb piano melodies soften tracks like “Argent,” “The Heartbeat of the Devil,” “And It Was Night,” and “My Constellation” by giving them an ethereal atmosphere that balances Chris Harms‘ rich vocals. In fact, the grand piano is, alongside the vocals, the unifying instrument throughout the music and the soundscapes created are absolutely gorgeous, making the songs stand out as true works of art. The Gregorian choir on
“The Ashes of Flowers” couples well with church organ, powerful drums, and intense guitars to create another hymn-like track that could be seen as the counterpart of “For They Know Not What They Do.” Distorted guitars, clean and harsh vocals, solid drumming, and piano/organ melodies make “Iskarioth” the heaviest track on this second album, but again with an incredibly melodic chorus.
Choirs and cello balance each other out on “A War Within,” an otherwise grave and deep track about Judas’ inner torment and struggles. By my count “My Constellation” and “A World Where We Belong” are some of the most beautiful tracks on this album, the latter featuring vocalizations and organ music that add so much depth to the lyrics. Closing track “Work of Salvation” mirrors “The Death of All Colours,” being an acoustic track with big choirs in the background, accompanied by a church organ and feels like an elegy, but this time for Jesus. There are so many harmonies in these songs – many times it’s like you’re in a church during Mass and this angelic choir makes the experience so much better.
The fact that – even though “Judas” is a double album with a complex story to tell – the music doesn’t feel overly theatrical or overly dramatic is exactly the reason why it is so enjoyable and smooth flowing. There’s beauty in simplicity and these songs prove this point to a tee, as nothing is overdone in any way, everything has its specific purpose not just within the song but within the bigger picture of the music. And to create something so majestic and impressive while keeping things uncluttered and organic is truly a mark of accomplished musicianship. The exquisite songwriting and flawless composition that LORD OF THE LOST deliver on this epic release pave the way for absolute excellence making “Judas” into a truly iconic album, and a milestone in their discography. Definitely, “Judas” is an album for the ages!
This is definitely a top contender for Album of the Year in my books, up there with EPICA’s “Omega.”
Written by Andrea Crow
Disc 1: Damnation
2. For They Know Not What They Do
3. Your Star Has Led You Astray
4. Born with a Broken Heart
5. The 13th
6. In the Field of Blood
7. 2000 Years a Pyre
8. Death Is Just a Kiss Away
9. The Heart Is a Traitor
11. Be Still and Know
12. The Death of All Colors
Disc 2: Salvation
1. The Gospel of Judas
2. Viva Vendetta
4. The Heartbeat of the Devil
5. And it Was Night
6. My Constellation
7. The Ashes of Flowers
9. A War Within
10. A World Where We Belong
12. Work of Salvation
Chris Harms – vocals, guitar, cello
Pi Stoffers – guitar
Class Grenayde – bass
Gared Dirge – piano, synthesizer, percussion, guitar
Niklas Kahl – drums