They say the brightest flames burn the fastest. Though Angelcorpse were only active for five years in their initial run, in that short time they managed to release three terrific albums and establish themselves as one of the most iconic blackened death metal bands of all time. After reuniting and releasing 2007’s Of Lucifer and Lightning to mediocre reception, the Kansas City group would split up again, with guitarist Gene Palubicki going on to showcase his ideas in Blasphemic Cruelty, Apocalypse Command, and Perdition Temple. It seems odd considering their slow rate of output, but Temple have easily been the most prolific of these three projects, with the band now on their third album since their 2009 inception. Mr. Kikuras was quite impressed with the group’s 2015 effort The Tempter’s Victorious, and while I didn’t find it to be quite on the level of classic Angelcorpse, I’ve still found plenty of enjoyment in Temple‘s swirling and dense approach to blackened death.
For third album Sacraments of Descension, Ares Kingdom‘s Alex Blume has joined on bass, Mr. Palubicki has resumed vocal duties (after letting Black Witchery‘s Impurath take the mic for Victorious), and some guy that can blast really fast has stayed on drums. That’s not to downplay the drummer’s talents,1 but like past Temple albums, Sacraments really is the Palubicki Show. Those familiar with his past work will find plenty to love and little to surprise. The man writes fast, complex, and relentless music, moving from dizzying tremolo lines to fast crunchy riffs to scalding solos with reckless abandon. At times, it’s almost too much. Opener “Nemesis Obsecration,” for instance, packs so many ideas into five minutes that it just barely avoids feeling incoherent. There’s plenty of good riffs on display, but the sheer quantity of them virtually subsumes moments like the menacing groove that briefly appears about three minutes in.
Fortunately, this is less of a problem as the album continues and there are still plenty of good moments throughout. Early highlight “Desolation Usurper” shows Palubicki leveraging his wretched rasp to deliver the titular vocal hook before ripping through a chord progression that escalates like an impending explosion. “Eternal Mountain” shows some overt Morbid Angel influence, while “Devils Countess” slows the tempo in parts and stands out with its unique off-kilter riff. “Crypts of Massacre” and “Carnal Harvest” carry Sacrament‘s second half with wild attacks powered by squealing notes and tumbling riffs, before “Antichrist” closes these 37 minutes in suitably brutal fashion with occasional marching chugs and a high-register riff.
Any fan of Angelcorpse or Palubicki’s previous work is sure to enjoy Sacraments, and indeed I had a lot of fun banging my head to the winding tremolo lines and trying to hold on tight as the album spun quickly from one idea to the next. Yet I can’t say Sacraments is without issue. Palubicki’s writing can be very complex and dense, and part of the reason Angelcorpse worked so well was that it had Pete Helmkamp’s relatively simpler and more direct writing to act as a counterweight. With Temple, there really aren’t any moments or songs that can be described as “simple,” and as such the material can feel a bit lacking in both accessibility and memorability. Likewise, the vocal patterns can get a tad monotonous and some of the riffs do end up feeling a bit similar. Fortunately, the production is great, with a crisp and lively sound that showcases the pattering drums, crunchy chords, and molten tremolos.
I’m glad Perdition Temple exist, as there are few bands out there today that do blackened death metal the way Angelcorpse did it. Sacraments of Descension is a compositional maelstrom, an onslaught of riffs that’s sure to please those who like bands with spiky logos and even spikier gauntlets. Yet at the end of the day, I have to wonder how this project would sound if Palubicki dialed back a bit to let his ideas breathe a little more, or even made the project more collaborative. As it is, this is tight and impressive blackened death metal that I fully endorse and enjoy, yet I still can’t help but feel that the potential is there for these fires to burn a little brighter.