I can almost hear the collective groans as I break the news that we have another old school death metal band on our hands, hailing from Stockholm, Sweden no less. That horse has been pounded into dust after all and the number of sub-par clones has exceeded the saturation point. Yet being a sucker for old school death I always approach such situations with a glimmer of optimism, particularly when bands like Horrendous and Tribulation have demonstrated that old school death metal can be executed with a degree of originality and innovation. Which brings us to this debut self-titled platter from Temisto, an intriguing effort that doesn’t purely ape the ghosts of the past, instead forging a sinister trajectory off the left hand path.
Although traces of the usual suspects are evident in Temisto’s sound, dating back to the formative years of the Stockholm scene when Carnage and Nihilist were cutting their teeth, Temisto sidestep the obvious by deftly counter-punching the raw, deathly savagery of their delivery with a proggy technical bent and shadowy blackened streak. It’s a refreshing take on an overly familiar style, with Temisto having the balls to mingle with influences outside the Swedeath norm while remaining nestled in the cosy confines of old school death metal. With this factor in mind Temisto make a pretty solid fist of it on this promising but flawed debut, featuring songwriting that doesn’t quite stack up against their loftier ambitions. Stripped of any bells or whistles, the opening salvo of “Above Sacred Ground” bristles with feral urgency and unsettling dissonance. The song gets faster and more dangerous as it threatens to careen off the rails before Temisto’s incorporation of melodic passages and intricate guitar work wedged between the primitive brutality sets the song apart from typical retro fare.
Musically Temisto are more technically proficient and dynamic than first appearances indicate, bringing a complexity and deft hand to the full force assault. This is particularly evident on the prog mindfuckery and structural complexities of “Medusa” and spacious tones of “Demiurge,” complete with a beautiful and foreboding acoustic outro. These intriguing elements are revisited throughout the album, clearly portraying the band’s songwriting strengths and grasp of murky, sinister atmosphere. Although the sheer ferocity and blasting, unhinged intensity of the more straightforward moments are impressive on a primal level, sadly they struggle to offer the hooks or catchy riffs to engage quite like the blackened atmospherics, acoustic breaks and progressive flourishes do, leaving little to recall once the storm subsides.
The more successful, fully-fledged songs like the aforementioned “Medusa,” “Demiurge” and ‘Above Sacred Ground” hit the sweet spot and showcase the considerable potential at Temisto’s disposal. The intricate prog parts are most intriguing, sounding something akin to a raw blackened Atheist, lending Temisto a unique angle. “Abyssal Depths” tinkers with a doomier pace entwined with serpentine passages and dissonant melodies. Busy drumming keeps things lively and the song’s doomy prog injections offers a twist on their sound that works wonders and I’d love to hear Temisto explore it further. Aside from some of the less inspiring moments of faceless brutality, Temisto suffers on a sonic level. Although capably produced and engineered by frontman Robert Andersson of the sadly missed and similarly flavored innovators Morbus Chron, along with Elias Scharmer (ex-Abduction, ex-Mutilate), the album has been squashed significantly at the mastering table, cranking up the loudness factor and crippling the music’s ample dynamics, hindering the final impact.
Overall Temisto’s debut exhibits impressive potential, plenty of cool moments and a few truly killer songs, but is overall a mixed affair that suffers from an overall lack of memorability and top shelf riffs. Despite my gripes, I’m very interested to discover where the band goes from here and if they’re able to harness their ambitions into more developed and refined songwriting. Although I can’t fully endorse this album, I do encourage the curious to check out Temisto’s interesting combo of prog-infused blackened old school death.