The gestation period between Lumbar announcing their existence in September and releasing their debut album in November has been mercifully short as the anticipation level for The First And Last Days Of Unwelcome has been – as is to be expected when any ensemble of musical badasses pair up – sky high. Mike Scheidt of Yob will probably need no introduction, suffice to say that he is perhaps one of the most highly revered of all doom musicians currently making music, and Tad Doyle will be a familiar name to grunge historians whose band TAD were tour mates with Nirvana back in the early days. H.P. Taskmaster helped me trace Aaron Edge‘s connection to the others, having designed the Yob logo and played with Doyle in Brothers of the Sonic Cloth as well as Roareth. But these are all just details – the bottom line is Lumbar do not disappoint. The First And Last Days Of Unwelcome is a powerful album that finds this titanic trio in an incredibly creative and energised headspace, rather than resting on their collective laurels.
The album was entirely written (and largely performed) by Edge who, both musically and thematically, uses the platform to tackle his struggle with multiple sclerosis. Perhaps the power of suggestion plays a part here, but Edge and co have made a brilliant attempt at trying to create textures and moods which evoke symptoms of the affliction. The album flows remarkably well between tracks, and songs often dissolve into moments of calm or erupt in anger; other sections twist and turn, creating a suffocating, claustrophobic atmosphere. However the most prominent characteristic of the music is its heaviness, both in sound and tone – the guitars are weighty, the drums clatter and the vocals are superb.
Lumbar open with the triumphant, defiant ‘Day One,’ Scheidt’s unmistakable holler bellowing out over a propulsive and uplifting riff that really declares Lumbar‘s intentions to completely slay everything in sight. Things take a torturous turn on the grungey, bass-led ‘Day Two’ as the riff descends in a downward spiral as Doyle and Scheidt’s voices intangle like two souls being dragged away into a vortex. ‘Day Six’ probably goes the farthest in meeting what most people’s expectations for this collaboration would sound like and it is little wonder that it was the preview track chosen to give people their first glimpse of the band. The song’s simple riff seems catered to Scheidt’s vocal delivery but the simplicity of the riff is key to its impact – it’s a straight-up head-nodder and one of the less showy but most instantly enjoyable tracks on the album.
Some of the most impressive and evocative moments on the album attempt to portray a feeling that is probably less tangible to many of us. ‘Day Three’ is a case in point – wirey guitars shoot around almost at random, like synapses misfiring as a creeping low-end guitar chug hints at some impending doom and a voice cries out in desperation: “Why are you here? / Who sent you? / You have no right to be here.” On ‘Day Five’ the approach is more impressionistic, guitars echoing and whining like a skewed and discordant orchestra warming up, while the distant vocal line from ‘Day Two’ reverberates in the distance and an Atilla Csihar-esque vocal whispers some almost indecipherable and menacing words. These songs give the album a great sense of cohesion, and before you know it the album is over.
Indeed, one of the album’s great strengths is its brevity; in fact, at just under twenty-five minutes I’d be inclined to call this an EP rather than an album proper. Unlike some doom releases which can tend to push you past the point of despair, Lumbar definitely leave you wanting more, allowing no room for filler or mindless riffing for the sake of it – this is an intelligently crafted, and emotional, record, executed in the spirit of camaraderie by three good friends. Nobody asked for this album, and no-one could have predicted that it would appear in 2013 – but here it is, one of best albums of the year. How long we’ll be waiting for a follow up – if we get one at all – remains to be seen, but for now this is a tantalising treat for all fans of heavy music.
Scribed by: Tom McKibbin