Vanhelgd Temple of Phobos Cover 2016Let’s cut right to the chase, peeps; we live in a time where there’s very little innovation to be had within our blessed little circle of extreme music. Sure, you have bands that throw humongous curveballs at you from the far left, or those bands where they don’t innovate, but they sure as hell deliver with incredible conviction and sincerity. But more often than not, we are caught amidst the never-ending waves of retro-insert trend here. Be it 70s occult rock, 80s thrash metal, or in this case, 90s Swedish death metal, there is very little envelope-pushing to be had. Vanhelgd‘s fourth full-length, Temple of Phobos, hopes to at least color their homages to their country’s classic sound with some sprinkles of doom and experimentation. How successful are they?

It all depends on the listener’s patience and love for the original material from days gone by. Opener “Lamentation of the Mourners” kicks off with a tremolo riff to remind you that the red in the sky is truly theirs and theirs alone, taking the now well-worn path that At The Gates blazed over two decades ago. Even the vocals of Mattias “Flesh” Frisk borrow heavily from Tomas Lindberg’s younger years. Thankfully, the tremolo riffing of Frisk and fellow guitarist Jimmy Johansson keeps things interesting enough, especially during the chorus. About halfway in, the song slows to a near-Asphyx tremolo-peppered crawl, adding a bit of much-needed atmosphere before returning to kiss the burning darkness once more. Not a bad song to introduce your album, and it gives a decent snapshot to how the rest of Temple of Phobos plays out.

It’s not easy to take an old sound and do something new with it. Mess up the formula too much, and you’re betraying your influences, but if you stay within its restrictive confines, you wind up stagnant. Vanhelgd thankfully know this, as they do take a few liberties here and there, incorporating horns during “Den Kentrogenes Klagan,” and a serene female vocal and acoustic section in the first half of twelve-minute closer “Allt Hop Är Förbi.”1 The runaway cut on here is most certainly the title track, where Vanhelgd sound their nastiest, successfully amalgamating doom and death metal with a nice, primal middle section consisting of rumbling drums and chants that would have Rotting Christ running for their shields and spears.

Vanhelgd Band 2016

But these moments are few and far between, as the rest of the album is a bit too familiar and slow for my liking. “Gravens Lovsång” slows the mood down a bit too much (despite having a sweet lone My Dying Bride solo guitar melody near the end), and “Rejoice in Apathy” slows things down even further immediately after. In both cases, however, the feeling of having heard this all before starts to creep in before “Allt Hop Är Förbi” closes things off. Thankfully, they’re played with enough conviction and sincerity to look past their shortcomings. Also, the Joona Hassinen production keeps things warm and heavy, with extra care in Jonas Albrektsson’s bass tones and the guitars.

So while this isn’t exactly fresh, Temple of Phobos is a pretty solid slab of Swedish death metal. I look forward to more experimentation from these guys, as they’ve given some rather good tunes on here. A little tightening up and a bit more variety, and we could have a new name to champion. Keep an eye out.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Labels: EU: Pulverised Records | NA: Dark Descent Records
Release Dates: EU: 2016.07.01 | NA: 07.22.2016

Show 1 footnote

  1. By the way, the second half, which begins after a couple minutes of dead air, is basically a blackened death metal version of the first half, sans acoustic guitars and female vocals.
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  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Obligatory listen due to obnoxiously metal band photo, check

    So far, I ain’t really enjoying myself

    • Grymm

      Yeah, this is the only preview track I could find on the Web. There are far better songs on this record.

  • Martin Roth

    I really enjoyed their previous offer, Relics of Sulphur Salvation, because for OSDM it is simply ridiculously catchy. This, by contrast, is bleak. And rather boring.

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    That album cover confuses me. With it’s non-bordering border and all.

    • Innit Bartender

      HA! True, it’s a stripped-down Gustave Moureau!

      • Makes me think of the cover art for Suspiral – Delve into the Mysteries of Transcendence, and to a certain degree the painting Isle of the Dead. It’s otherwise made by guitarist and vocalist Mattias “Flesh” Frisk.

  • Art Saves

    Can’t stand these guys, seeing them live ruined it. They just looked like some 30 year old nerds who still live at the basement of their moms house.

    • Diego Molero

      So you don’t like them cause they are nerds and live with their moms? That is nonesense.

      • basenjibrian

        Mr. Savior: You have just insulted 50% of the commentariate on this website, good sir. I demand you meet me at dawn with broadswords and shields and your best LARP gear!

        • If you guys are gonna fight, it better to be to the strains of Gloryhammer!

          • basenjibrian

            I need to stop eating so much ice cream before I could fit into the Gloryhole…errr….hammer outfits!

          • [not a Dr]

            And it should happen at the crack of noon.

          • Make it midnight, the weaponry: scythe and the dress-code: optional, but metal… and I’m in.
            Hell, if football hooligans and bikers can throw a good fight, why should we be any worse?

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            No cracks showing, please

      • I have to partially agree with Mr. Art. Not regarding this band in particular, but in general.

        Bands that look like straight daddy-boys in tidy clothes and orderly, short hair, tends to turn me off somewhat. I can of course enjoy their music, but I’m more convinced if I know they’re metal through and through; meaning it and living it. That also goes for those who needs costume changes, switching from green blazers and brown corduroy pants to black clothes just before their gig. Metal ain’t no carnival, baby. Than again, you don’t need to wear nails and corpspaint to go grocery shopping.

        Oh, and I really enjoy this album. The embedded song ain’t the best, as Grymm mentions, but hell, it ain’t bad either.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          I think I get what you’re saying… Obituary might be the embodiment of it. I don’t think John and Donald Tardy have a set of “stage clothes” they just go on stage wearing exactly whatever they wear every day. As for Trevor Peres, he most likely wears onstage his everyday clothes except for the huge spiked bracelet, but then again he might also wear it everyday which makes it even cooler.

      • Art Saves

        In the context of their death metal and bringing it to a live gig it just ruin the atmosphere they wanted to show in the first place, so there it does ruin it.
        But nerds in general I don’t have a beef with, I am one myself. But a 30 year old shouldn’t be living at home with his mom/parents, get a job and get your own place!

    • Grymm

      I would so love to start a black metal band where I’m wearing corpse-paint, spikes, and black sweatpants in the snow.

      In my native enclave of… Florida.

      • GardensTale

        You need to be pretty fucking determined to get frostbite in Florida. Either that or fall asleep and drop a snowcone on your knee.

        • Grymm

          Excuse me, I have a VERY well-functioning freezer where I keep all my beer and ice cream.

          It’s kvlt, tr00, AND like me, very grymm!

          • With his very own AMG Brand Air Conditioner!

          • Grymm

            I have my own setting and everything!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Oh, come on! Do you think Nocturno Culto lives some other place than his mom’s basement? Fenriz? Abbath?

      • Art Saves

        But when Abbath goes on stage he dress for what his music is. If he would go up in sweatpants and a tshirt it wouldn’t be the same, even if the music sounds the same.
        Although if anyone could pull it off it would be Abbath, he still would bring the showmanship I bet. :P

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Abbath wears corpsepaint, leather pants and battle gear 24-7!

      • Haha :) i highly doubt that any of them lives at their parents.
        In stark contrast to Italians who has to use the back seat of a small Fiat to get down and dirty, Norwegians leaves the nest as soon as they’re able to fly.

  • I definitely want to hear more. Hadn’t heard these guys before but am listening to Relics now and and I’m digging it.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    How about replacing that “How can less be more” subtitle with something like “Innovation is overrated”?

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    You mentioned that “Den Kentrogenes Klagan” featuring horns and now that’s the song I want to listen to check out… no sample online to be found…

  • Blueberry Balls

    Loved their last one. Excited to check this out. Nice review, nice legs.