It’s not every day we review a band famous for an EP called Penis Metal, but it’s also not every day we review Hades Archer. In fact, infamous phallic work aside, this Chilean duo’s last album was debut For the Diabolical Ages way back in 2011, with a couple splits and EPs released in the meantime.1 Presumably vocalist/bassist/guitarist Nabucodonosor III has been busy with black-thrashers Force of Darkness while drummer Hateaxes Command has been pounding the skins for seemingly every band in the Chilean underground. Nonetheless Archer’s sophomore full-length is finally upon us, and it probably isn’t too far off what you’d expect from a record with “impure” in its title and poorly rendered titties on its cover.
Based on what you know so far and the fact that Temple is being released by Hells Headbangers, you’ve probably already made up your mind whether there’s any real potential for you to actually like this. This is the sort of niche blackened death which (just like my wardrobe) puts a heavy emphasis on the black, calling to mind a more unclean Denouncement Pyre, a more concise Adorior, or a more occult Impiety. Throughout its 33 minutes, Temple proudly flies that raw flag first raised by Sarcófago and their ilk years ago, blasting along with frantic buzzing chords and manic mid-register rasps that are sure to send the false scattering without entry. Like Sarcó, Archer keep their songs lean — track lengths hover around 3 minutes — and have a few wild thrash undertones worked in.
Perhaps most surprising, however, is how adept Nabu’s guitar-work is. Sure, proper opener “Chaos Teratosis Chimeras” showcases the churning chords and thunderstorm riffing fans expect from this style but listen also to the twisting and divebombing notes of “Great Moon Tide” or the supercharged thrash of “Unus Cantus Bestiae.” Nabu has a knack for writing riffs which are simple in construction yet exciting in execution, and many of these 12 tracks are garnished with wailing solos that harbor a surprisingly slick sense of melody. For variety’s sake Temple also features slow tracks like “The Gods Sold This World for Destruction,” which ambles along on slow ritualistic riffs that recall Void Meditation Cult. These slower cuts also feature some of the album’s most memorable moments, with “Hecate Undressed,” in particular ,featuring a sinister melody that sounds ripped straight from the heart of Rotting Christ.
It’s a shame, then, that Temple is put together so sloppily. Admittedly I went back and forth trying to decide if the obvious lack of effort was endearing or lazy, but all it took was hearing the song title screamed for the 47th time in “Sex Sex Sex Perversions” for me to finally conclude it was the latter. It’s weird to say this, but Temple feels like it doesn’t have enough lyrics: almost all these songs feature Nabu screaming the track title at least three or four times and calling it a chorus, with little else in the lyric book. It’s so repetitive that at times it feels like Archer actually wrote Temple as a self-parody. Likewise, the “songwriting” feels sorely underdeveloped on occasion, with only longer tracks like “Temple of the Impure” containing any real sense of development or structure. Many other songs merely barrel forward on the main riff or two and end unceremoniously. The construction also feels haphazard, with three similar (and very repetitive) tracks following each other in the album’s first half and the 37-second “World Inheritance” serving as a jarring and undeveloped final burst of aggression before the record’s ambient outro.
Fortunately, though the production is loud and buzzy, the guitars are sharp and potent, and the bass is not afraid to ooze from the batter. Yet ultimately Temple is one of those frustratingly mediocre records with good ideas and performances but sagging execution, something best appreciated when one’s critical ear is turned off. Sadly that’s not what I get paid to do (ha!) and thus it’s hard to heartily recommend this to anyone but the type of blackened death fan who eats Atomic Aggressor and Sadistik Exekution for breakfast. At least we’ll always have Penis Metal.