Temple of Void – The World That Was Review

In 2017, Detroit’s Temple of Void released the aptly titled Lords of Death, a titanic alloy of bloody bones and nihilism. The band’s ability to succinctly channel the wrath and ruin of classic Asphyx and Bolt Thrower yielded destructive results. Temple of Void’s most magnetic quality, however, lies in their ability to enrich their density with influences a little less synonymous with the brutalitarian regime. Debut album Of Terror and the Supernatural was a killer compound of death-doom. But Lords of Death also began to incorporate traits that might be more familiar to Alice in Chains or even Pearl Jam. Now, The World That Was prepares to thunder into immediate proximity with the same weight but a clear shift in intent. Fear thee not, ye acolytes and thralls – monumental riffs still fill these halls. But, to quote the band, themselves: “your face is different, but we’ve met before…”

The World That Was is a very obvious continuation of the mild experimentation that whispered through its predecessor. Temple of Void haven’t really deviated from their blueprint, but rather expanded it to fit a grander design. Where as Lords of Death relied heavily on death metal to conduct its brutal business, The World That Was takes both death and doom and uses each to fill a much broader landscape. Fortunately, the basis of the band’s sound lies in megaton riffing, and that hasn’t changed. “A Beast Among Us” and “Casket of Shame” are quick to confirm their crushing credentials with a cavalcade of mid-pace and swarming crescendos, respectively. However, the former also builds to a spacey bridge that develops into a protracted finale. The writing clearly puts emphasis on the slower passage. Where the songs once only displayed a puritanical deathly advance, a distinctly funereal flavor now prominently features.

These new accouterments mostly serve to add emotional depth. “Leave the Light Behind” offers a post-metal adjacent opening theme full of melancholy. The song soon develops into a huge groove and crooning clean chorus. The transitions are exceptional and smoothly run the gamut from a metronomic pulse to a long distorted sequence that never outstays its welcome. Vocalist Mike Erdody compliments the musical weft and warp with his exceptional growls, while guitarists Alex Awn and Don Durr ply the album with reliably thick rhythms. But the time they spend emphasizing the space between notes is increasingly apparent. Their style has been purposefully adapted to engineer atmosphere, and that defines this album’s signature.

Progression is something I always champion and the growth on The World That Was is logical. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always hit the mark. “Self Schism” boasts strangulated riffs and casts an effective contrast between an alt-rock chorus and vast, lumbering bridge. The song is never overwrought and manages a smart balance between light and dark. This is not always the case. “A Beast Among Us” certainly has its moments, but has a habit of losing my attention in its final throes. Perhaps the worst offender, the closing title track initially exudes a haunting presence amidst its funeral pace and subtle melody. However, the Maiden-derived finale (complete with Steve Harris bass gallop) is ill-conceived. Despite the smooth transition, it feels tacked on and, coupled with the album’s preoccupation with excessive synths, the song ends up as a fine example of a band unable to get out of their own way.

Temple of Void have always had an ability to take a traditional template and make it vital again. While the album’s writing is notably more dynamic, the material feels less indelible and certainly less dangerous. Although I can never criticize progress, in terms of impact, The World That Was feels a little thinner, despite its obvious substance. As a result, I’ve found this record very difficult to quantify. There is an absolute abundance of quality here. But the band’s, albeit mild, transition from infernal sovereignty to oneironautics just doesn’t have the same impact. Temple of Void not only remain a favorite, but remain incapable of writing a bad album. But in terms of spiritual or sonic heft, I can’t honestly profess to reach for this above Evoken or Temple of Void’s own violent pinnacle. And The World That Was stylistically falls rather neutrally between the two. Always engaging and often excellent but never quite a Lord of Death.

Rating: Good!
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Shadow Kingdom Records
Websites: templeofvoid.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/templeofvoid
Releases Worldwide: March 27th, 2020

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