If one were to search for a modern-day Midas amidst the metal mythos, they need look no further than Chris “Lord” Harms. Though rather than gold, everything this talented musician touches turns into a sea of sonic shadows, enveloped by his aphotic vision. His deep voice carries with it a sultry timbre, one that meshes well with other vocalists or stands alone with its impassioned allure. Whether working with Oomph! vocalist Dero Goi on their new collaborative project Die Kreatur, or shining as a guest alongside Flo Schwarz on Pyogenesis’ single “Modern Prometheus,” Harms proves himself a shining star time and again. But no matter how this captivating creative occupied his time with musical commitments in 2020, this present year is marked by one of the most ambitious and impressive outputs from his main project yet. And so once again Lord of the Lost basks in brilliance with the conceptual double-album simply dubbed “Judas.”
As its name suggests, this aural journey follows the perception surrounding the fabled betrayer Judas Iscariot, stretching deep beneath the surface of deception and headfirst into the light of redemption. Lord of the Lost has tackled the impressive challenge of double concept albums not just once, but twice before, with both “Empyrean” and “Thornstar.” Yet “Judas” climbs head and shoulders above them both, dripping with the pain of betrayal while its gothic darkness is split by fractal beams of what some may call faith. This dichotomy is represented by the division between discs, the first titled “Damnation” followed by its companion “Salvation,” the names branding each respective half with hints of the narrative contained within. The former half dances with the image of Judas as a man “born to be a traitor,” while the latter tangles with the so-called salvific “Gospel of Judas,” both stories shrouded in the band’s gothic signature.
Though Harms may serve as the iconic, eye-catching front-man of Lord of the Lost, across six studio albums and almost a decade and a half the project, has gained a stronger sonic identity beyond its founder alone. “Judas” is proof that the current lineup is the perfect delivery vehicle for ambitious stories, and their ability to heighten brilliant compositions with airtight musicianship adds yet another strength to an already impressive arsenal. 2018’s “Thornstar” climbed German charts and brought the band firmly into the spotlight, but this latest endeavor propels them even further into the niche they have carved for themselves. The versatility within the expansive tracklist of “Judas” is much like that of the variety the gothic metal act has carried through their career, yet channeled through wisdom and nuance that lends itself towards a more mature sound. Saturated with darkness and a glistening creative polish, one might find themselves asking if this is, perhaps, Lord of the Lost’s magnum opus.
First and foremost “Judas” is a gothic endeavor, its darkened silk only fractured by the foundational elements of German industrial music for a sharper bite as it piques. Each track is a story told beneath the cloak of midnight, a coalescence between the history we have long been told and a contrasting image the band so painstakingly paints. Furthering the all-enveloping thematic atmosphere is a distinct hymnal undercurrent, swelling with angelic choirs to offset Harms’ sinfully tempting tone, not once breaking an unspoken reverence. Yet even this heavenly touch is not without its contrast, as hearty synthesizers add gravel to ground slower tracks, including the somber foray of “The 13th.”
For as much pain as Harms delivers with his tender keening in vocally isolated passages, he is backed by the furious hellfire of Lord of the Lost’s rhythm section when the mood takes on a more ominous shade. Careful mixing balances between the front-man’s magnetic charisma and the instrumental talents which gift “Judas” its substance, a testament to the painstaking production behind the album.“Iskarioth” elevates the torment of agony with visceral percussive fury, capturing the sensation of being wounded, and of how the wounded seek their revenge. Similar aggression bleeds through in “2000 Years A Pyre,” a funerary march punctuated by expressive howls. For a more thorough exploration of the band’s industrial roots, “Be Still And Know” is an electric inferno sun-kissed by a delicate piano for a threnody like no other, led by the virtuoso hands of guitarist Pi Stoffers before static descends.
The size and magnitude of some tracks are simply magnificent, unconstrained by any mortal sin. The lofty heights of “And It Was Night” serve both as a lullaby and a tempestuous force that could tear apart the heavens. Harms’ impassioned delivery at the heights of “Death Is Just A Kiss Away” to the melancholic lament of “Born With A Broken Heart” continue to elevate his persona to something larger than life, and more than deserving of the moniker he has adopted for the stage. Musicianship and vocal prowess collide on standout single “For They Know Not What They Do,” which may be the crowning jewel on an album so striking. Authentic strings and a resounding organ breathe life into melodies, turning the whole of “Judas” into a church with fire behind the stained glass windows.
Again Harms proves his vocal talents with “My Constellation,” his deep voice resounding as syrupy as honey in a spectacular serenade. This almost romantic side of “Judas” appears again on “The Heartbeat of the Devil,” yet another number from the second disc that lends itself towards sweetness rather than hellfire. Expert control over the pacing and atmosphere of such a mammoth endeavor is another element that allows Lord of the Lost to truly shine, flowing effortlessly from the beguiling villainy of “Damnation” to the soulful bravery of “Salvation” with dynamic intention. Not a note feels out of place as the sinner is basked in light, particularly in the carefully placed melodies of pianist Gared Dirge.
The overall artistry of “Judas” is absolutely exquisite, and best consumed as a complete package. From the music itself, to the striking simplicity of the album artwork, all the way through the bombastic music videos, each is a different puzzle piece to a complex artistic vision. There is an air of theater to it all, overflowing with light, shadow, and glamour. Harms has never shied away from professing influences for his art, Lady Gaga included, and that striking style of imagery that borders on avant-garde shines through brightly here. Beyond external imagery is the tracklist itself, which reads both like poetry and like gospel, with descriptive and evocative titles that share just as much emotion as the music contained within them. From orchestral grandeur to striking minimalism and everywhere in between, the aesthetic beauty of “Judas” deserves to draw eyes and ears from around the globe. And despite its notably biblical roots, the lyrics and subjects are versatile commentary on our present society and perception as well, making “Judas” even more timeless.
The listener eventually arrives at the question of how to conclude an opus so magnanimous, so emotional, so moving. A journey that has reached across millennia to touch the listener’s heart and refashion a tale known by so many through time. Every part of the album ties into itself with flawless cohesion with motifs blossoming throughout, from the opening thunder of “Priest” to the false finality of “The Death of All Colours.” And just as cries of “Priest!” echo in the opening salvo of “Damnation,” this same chant fills the beginning of “Salvation” with a thunderous call of “Judas!” The many mirrors and common threads which pull together each dimension of “Judas” seem so ouroboric that there may never truly be an end to this venture, with both its pain and its philosophy rendering listeners to its whims.
“Work of Salvation” is a worthy conclusion to this tangled web of both damnation and salvation, and the opportunity for the listener to evaluate both sides of the story they just heard. As Dirge’s keys turn the final page of “Judas,” there is little more one can do except let out a last breath as the final hymn comes to an end. To sit there in silence after such an epoch is sobering, enlightening, and a sensation only possible because of the pure grace that had just poured forth. At over 100 minutes long, not a single second was wasted in this no-filler masterpiece, leaving listeners at the end of an unparalleled journey. Just as the biblical Judas is seared into the memory of mankind, it seems only appropriate “Judas” is held with just as much reverence by the metal community, for it is art in its purest and most spirited form.
Release Date: July 2nd, 2021
Genre: Gothic Metal
- Chris “Lord” Harms / vocals
- Class Grenayde / bass
- Gared Dirge / piano, synthesizer
- Pi Stoffers / guitar
- Niklas Kahl / drums
Whether looking for salvation or redemption, one need look no further than Lord of the Lost's monumental endeavor "Judas" for gothic metal gospel and the saccharine sweetness of something close to faith.