Temple of Void’s debut album ‘Of Terror and the Supernatural‘ set the expectations relatively low. While the artwork was fantastic the album suffered from it’s unfabulous release on a sub-label (Rain Without End) of a fairly unknown larger release pool (Naturmacht Productions). The band didn’t belong in that space, which releases a fair amount of bedroom projects with a few decent standouts (Old Graves is cool). It was a spooky doom/death album that leaned into abrasive atmosphere and chunky riffs for it’s style, but too often set the doom metal elements into the aether. It was a promising sound and there were some solid tracks that never really ‘got there’ musically. The thunderous death metal wasn’t thunderous enough and the doom elements were timid. The sophomore album ‘Lords of Death’ tosses aside subtlety and instead sees these mid-westerners hitting an amazing stride both in terms of heaviness, rich production, and gloomy atmospherics. Their focus is on razor-sharp chunky 90’s death metal riffing a la Bolt Thrower amidst a Hooded Menace styled respect for the aged pillars of death/doom.
Comparisons to Finland’s popular ghoulies are fair enough only because these guys are cut from the same cloth and one shouldn’t see Temple of Void as a me-too tail grabbers, they’ve put in their time in some fantastic bands. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Temple of Void have found their heaviness on their second album, their death metal footing comes with members who did their time in some pretty ace bands: The vocalist here provides guitars for horror doom/death band Acid Witch (whom I fucking love) as well as lesser known sludge band Failed. Guitarist Alex also plays in Hellmouth, a particularly brutal crossover band with an album out earlier this year. Newer addition guitarist Don appears to be key in creating this fuller, more direct approach to guitar composition, but all I can say for sure is that the guitars are fuller, heavier, beefier, and at their most thoughtful.
‘Lords of Death’ is a tightly wound and linear-focused death metal record that hasn’t lost it’s abrasive touch. Vocals are jaw-clenched and make the whole thing sound legitimately furious and not in a cheesy way. The atmospherics are chilling. Gloomy Evoken-scented chords in “Graven Desires” presage one of the more meaningfully melodic moments in an album full of chunky riffs and growls then later transitions into a moment of clean-sung vocals straight out of a Pale Divine album. “Wretched Banquet” features another favorite moment of mine as the ‘Realm of Chaos’ style riffing gives way to guitar hysterics reminiscent of Page Hamilton’s finest frantic noise metal soloing. There are moments where I feel the band is transcending comparisons, but I can see if you had fewer points of reference this might feel like a less special death metal record. I am such a fan of death/doom metal that I cannot help but love ‘Lords of Death’ and their progression from a moderately interesting band to a group I’ll be excited to hear more from in the future. The ability to sound exemplar and ‘classic’ without becoming a retro tribute is enough of a reason to praise ‘Lords of Death’ but looking beyond aesthetics these are some really good death metal tracks.