Death/doom is a deceptively mercurial beast, possessed of a tangential tendency to meander in directions that range from the darkly romantic to the downright bludgeoning. Detroit’s Temple of Void are plainly with the latter and dole out the kind of stomach churning Asphyxiation that had me at hello. Their debut album, Of Terror and the Supernatural, was by far my favorite of its kind in 2014, and I’ve since salivated openly in wait for its follow up to whisper rotten nothings in my shell-like ear. Now that day has arrived, and with it the aptly titled Lords of Death. It’s beyond my ability to explain what an utter brute this record is, so I’ll minutely paraphrase the late, great William Golding to deliver my point:
“… Ferrous wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart and his once healthy nervous system that had since fallen victim to riffs so malign, they might terrorise entire villages…”
And to think they called me a fanboy…
Avoiding the potential pitfalls of the myriad acts adopting the “caverncore” mantle that Incantation once wore to such effect, Temple of Void craft old-school and abjectly violent death metal that borrows from Hooded Menace‘s propensity for doom-haggard rhythms that really drag the corpse. The material places the almighty riff on a pedestal and, like some moonlit cult, swaddles it with an abundant desolation that never lacks in a cadence to truly wreck the neck. First up is “The Charnel Unearthing,” one of two brief instrumentals and our first sample of the bovine guitar tone that presides over the record. The brief intro eventually bleeds into “Wretched Banquet,” which lurches into life with inexorably advancing palm-mutes before changing tempo. The song culminates in a Jerry Cantrell inspired solo – an early highlight and a first glimpse into the more street-level punk energy that suffuses the record; unsurprising considering the band’s veteran lineup consists of current and ex members of acts as diverse as: Acid Witch, Hellmouth, Harbinger and Borrowed Time.
Vocalist, Mike Erdody, marks his unholy presence with an array of vast gutturals that hold the same phrasing and depth that Akerfeldt once utilized to such infamy on classic Opeth. Although Lords of Death puts a little less emphasis on the doom aspect – particularly in comparison with the debut – there’s still more than enough suffocation to go round. “A Watery Internment” builds on guitarists, Alex Awn and Don Durr’s, mountainous riffs with eerie abandon, summoning a deliberate, fathomless body of sound to drown in. “The Gift” picks up the pace somewhat, content to level skylines with riffs a-plenty, and offers drummer, Jason Pearce, the opportunity to inject some nuance into his percussion with adept fills. Death/doom is likely a tricky sub-genre to innovate – as such, Temple of Void aren’t doing anything new. Although pleasant, the 30 second acoustic interlude, which precedes “The Gift,” seems redundant on its own, and surely would have been preferable had it been incorporated into the track it’s so clearly designed to herald. Minor quibble aside, Lords of Death elects to lean on the ability and confidence of its makers to continuously deliver impeccable classic death metal.
The production, specifically the mix on the album, is nothing but complimentary. Erdody’s vocals don’t sit too high, accentuating their stifling efficacy whilst never swallowed by an impenetrable guitar tone much improved since the debut. Each instrument has a platform to maneuver, exemplified on “Graven Desires.” Borrowing from its dutch forbears, this beast hoards all the best riffs – no mean feat on such a densely packed release. The song also briefly showcases Erdody’s vocal capacity with a single mesmerizing passage of tortured cleans that seamlessly integrate with the crushing riff work.
Although it may seem that a genre that equally relies on and relishes a simplistic approach to structure has little opportunity for growth, that doesn’t mean it isn’t still impressive when executed with aplomb. With Lords of Death, Temple of Void have furthered their reputation as righteous riff-smiths and even engendered the band’s evolution with an innate ability to infuse their music with their own unique character. Having passed the annual halfway point, I strongly suspect this is a release to heavily feature come list season – I certainly expect to find it on my own. Until then, I can safely report my cenotaph has been well and truly crushed.