Doom-death is not a crowded field, but it is one that can feel difficult to innovate in. There are only so many ways you can bolt doom elements on to death metal at all. A band can slow down the tempo, add more distortion, maybe toss in a few more blues riffs, but after they may find themselves be carving up the bottom of the coffin. So how do you not end up just sounding like Morbid Angel in officially licensed Paradise Lost BDSM gear*? Not many have risen to answer this challenge, and of those who have, Detroit's Temple of Void may have the most definitive rejoinder. They've reached deep into the abyss, and what they're retrieved from the cavernous, lightless maw is… melody. Temple of Void's third LP The World that Was is nothing if not tuneful.
The World that Was is a significant departure from Temple of Void's second album, 2017's Lords of Death. Lords of Death was brutal in a matter of fact sense. It had very harsh production and beats that rolled like a train engineered by the devil himself. It was intense and unbearably exciting, but relentless in a way that verged on exhausting at times as well. The punker elements Temple of Void introduced to their sound on that record were refreshing at the time, but in retrospect, overwhelmed the subtler qualities of their compositions. The World that Was doesn't have that problem and feels like a more fully articulated realization of the band's sound as a result. All the elements of the mix are well balanced, and nothing suggests oversaturation or compression. Everything about their music feels like it's received a professional facelift to produce a more luxurious experience overall then their previous efforts (and their previous efforts were already pretty great, so long as I'm being candid).
Asphyx continues to be the most appropriate point of reference for Temple of Void, but the spectre of Opeth continues to be invoked in conversations around the band. And as the Temple of Void's sound continues to evolve, the comparison between them and Swedish melo-prog riders becomes more and more prophetic. "Leaving the Light Behind" is a full-on melo-death sojourn, with richly harmonious leads and yawning cosmic plains whose stories are told by melancholic passages of clean singing. It sees the band embracing the more progressive aspects of their sound, while proudly displaying their adoration for post-hardcore space-rock ala Failure and the ambient prickle of shoegazers Ride. It's very cool to see the band go in this direction, but it's honestly, not what most people pick up a death metal album to hear. Luckily, the Temple of Void is well prepared to slather on the decay and depravity with tracks like the Bolt Thrower inspired, suicide charge of "Casket of Shame," with its punishing, ramping grooves and trench scooping riffs, which feels more triumphant in its deathly enterprise with each passing minute. There is also the suffocatingly dense, Hooded Menace-esque, hungry hollow-eyed creep of opener "A Beast Among Us," which boasts some of the best, most foreboding leads on the entire album. Even as dark and harsh as these tracks manage to be, there is a certain catchiness to them. The melodies really give these songs a sense of momentum and help them stick in your ears long after they've clocked out. These guys may have their Bolt Thrower bonifieds, but that doesn't mean that they are afraid to let a little Amorphis slip through the cacophony here and there. Don't be too surprised if you catch yourself inadvertently begin humming along.
Death metal, and death-doom by the guilt of association, have a well-earned reputation for being ugly. And to be clear, The World that Was harbors many ghastly qualities and barbarous tendencies. However, as much as I love the cruel misshapen parts of this album while listening in the moment, these are not the sections that stick with me when I'm done listening. Instead, it's the parts that verge on the beautiful that keep me coming. Admittedly, this may sound like a strange kind of endorsement, but Temple of Void is a band with a strangely unique sound. Ultimately, I think you're better off taking a chance on them, than a band that plays more to type.
*This doesn’t actually exist, in case you were wondering.**
**Although, maybe it probably should.
Mick is always writing about something he's heard. Possibly even something you'd like. You can read his stuff over at I Thought I Heard a Sound Blog.
7.0 / 10
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