When nearly half of your band includes key Svarttjern black metal misanthropes, a marriage of Pagan Altar and King Diamond‘s heavy metal Mercyful Fate-alism is not what you expect to burst forth from your speakers. And yet it does. 2013’s Lucifer Leviathan Logos proved itself a focused and determined exercise in groovy satanic malarkey and, two years on, it’s an album I still spin. When I heard rumours of a new Magister Templi album in the works, I felt a glimmer of excitement. The rumor mill indicated that Into Duat would put aside the band’s fixation on Crowley’s philosophy and instead turn to the myths and gods of Egyptian mythology with lyrical themes swaying almost drunkenly into the territory of blackened death titans like SepticFlesh. What good can possibly come of this?
“Creation” could just as easily have been written by Pagan Altar as Magister Templi. The track plays out like a curse being unleashed on the unsuspecting masses. The guitar work is as you’d expect from the altar boys were they to briefly collaborate with Candlemass, but woven throughout are convoluted breakout moments of Mercyful Fate worship. It’s a catchy track, vocals are the high point, but it doesn’t completely escape being dogged by a foreboding lack of memorability and the perception that it runs on about two minutes too long.
Around “Osiris” you’re given a larger than life helping of Abraxas d’Ruckus’ vocal talent. His unhinged delivery ends up being the highlight of this well-timed one-two punch and while at first it seems to gravitate towards a Powerwolf-style dramaturgy (minus the pomp and cheese), at some point the similarities to Tim Baker of Cirith Ungol shine through. There’s far more sermon, play on vocal intonation and interplay between the styles of Tim Baker and King Diamond, on Into Duat (“Osiris,” “Horus the Avenger,” “Anubis” and “Slaying Apophis”) than I remember on Lucifer Leviathan Logos. While these are the tracks I return to most often, I did eventually find them wearing. Sometimes less is more.
Much like on Lucifer Leviathan Logos, from “Creation” right up until the close of “Destruction” you’re beaten almost religiously with more Mercyful Fate and Pagan Altar fanboyism than you know what to do with. This is both good and bad. On one hand it’s a fun mix of influences and by now Magister Templi have become quite adept at seamlessly blending them. On the other hand, if you want to hear either of these iconic bands, your first stop would probably be to go to their discography – think about it for a second: can Abraxas d’Ruckus really out king the King?
Into Duat has scattered moments that lead you to believe that Magister Templi are on to something big. There’s the catchy sloppiness of Satan’s Wrath that pops up in “Horus the Avenger,” the obvious tempo shifts and Manilla Road riffing in “Anubis” and “Sobek” and last but not least, the Candlemass “Dancing In The Temple (Of The Mad Queen Bee)” vibe that breaks through the patriotic drum and guitar expression in “Slaying Apophis.” Unfortunately, in spite of these hooks and the the larger-than-life production style used by Evil Octopus and Sorcerer studios, Into Duat still ends up being largely just forgettable.
Magister Templi‘s latest round of heavy metal worship falls a little short of its predecessor in stickiness, but what it lacks in that area it makes up for in enthusiasm. There are some good tracks here, but you’ll have to sift through filler like “Sobek” to get to them. I rather like the term “open-minded experience” used to label Into Duat. It’s fitting. To appreciate the fanboyism and the lack of lasting impression that these heavy metal merchants are peddling, you surely need an open mind.