Saturnalia Temple – Gravity (2020)REVIEW

Witness the first Se’irim pricking the pneuma, adulterating the sanctimonious’ bubble of infirmity and weakness, softening the human mass and weighing down the ‘soul’ so that it may slip into freeing singularity. Dead and leathered lungs once again aspire with the curses of old as Sweden-based occult psychedelic doom metal trio Saturnalia Temple crack open their third tome, ‘Gravity’. There the blackened radiation of the ancients delivers bravely raw and electric-skyscraping pillory, a shackle to still the thrashing body of the devout as their downward spiraling vision is realized. This enthroned beast, a shaken fist and thought-blurring mantra of nuclear crisped flesh hangs loose as the gaze of a severed head held in captive enlightenment of death. Presented through the hypnotic honesty of vintage equip, ‘Gravity’ defines Saturnalia Temple in deepest and endearing detail: Ancient defiant minds commanding their entranced fellowship with distinct rumblings of true occult ritualistic psychedelia.

If you’ve only ever been a follower, an inhabitant, a beetle rolling dung through the dirt, the concept of ‘Gravity’ taken plainly will squarely suggest the abyss and all downward motion. If you are your own independence, a being self-guided and earnest in reaching your true potential just as water or mercury would right itself in any vessel then ‘Gravity’ represents the absorbance, consistency, and the depths of singularity that each human being must be allowed. Its meaning can ripple much deeper than the easily divined message of individuality, too. Ideally the listener gains the desire for oneness and meditates upon pulling away from the herd, away from the destructive stampede of human cattle. The tone of the listening experience may just be a stoney, buzzing trip if you’ll allow its eruptive 70’s heavy metal glow to scrape your lobes but the suggested theme had me willfully spiraling into internalization, meditation, and head-drooping trance throughout. Heavy psychedelic rock in a most unique tradition, the dark ambiance and extreme metal grittiness applied to this ancient-sounding doom metal record surpasses expectations of sound design while deeper securing the evolving eminence of Saturnalia Temple.

The eponymous opening track, “Saturnalia Temple”, carries itself with such weight and barenaked purpose that it’d been the harshest, most jarring induction I’ve experienced so far this year — A hot iron set into a frozen pitcher. The analog sound cakes itself with the gristle of 70’s guitar and vocal effects providing practical but unpredictable swirling doom-psych that arrives with a freshly characteristic frankness and depth. Those fuzz-distorted sparks and woven echoing modulations so readily shake like a fist in the face that it’d felt ill-advised upon the first listen. With the proverbial hymen of the mind-ear connection distended, it would be second listen where the envelope of Saturnalia Temple‘s third album would shake loose its content and meaning more readily. The flawless self-representation across the span of the first four tracks peaks with the combination of organ-grinder “Gravity” and the blackened growling ritual of “Elyzian Fields”. This heavier, crunchy side of the band is not unheard of if you’re familiar with their discography but this time around it feels more present and less in line with the motions of stoner metallic ‘heavy blues’. “Elyzian Fields” in particular reaches for an abrasive, crushing sound that leaps and stabs at the ear, it’d soon become an unmissable point of intensity upon the full listen.

If there’ll be any mixed or unsure reaction to ‘Gravity’ it will either stem from the organic and ‘live’ presence of the recording or the vocals themselves. Saturnalia Temple haven’t adulterated their reality for this third album, nothing is slicked over or warmed up and as a result ‘Gravity’ sets itself apart in a commendable way that is in line with the revelry of ideology guiding its purpose. I love that rawness in doom metal not only because it takes a freak to stand out from the crowd but because it is closest to the timbre of a live performance from a particularly good psych-tinged doom metal band. This should suggest the crumbling nuclear heft of Ocean Chief and/or Ufomammut as much as it does early Paul Chain but there is no band that could be reasonably compared side-by-side with the whole of what Saturnalia Temple have done on ‘Gravity’. This can be best observed within that I’d consider the final peaking moments of darkness on the album, the almost violently fuzz-crushed reverberations of “Bitter Taste” with its incredible hall-shaking monastic vocals and the similarly devastating grind of “Oannes” which also features reverb entombed vocals to start. Within a room-filling full listen these last two tracks serve as thematic kin and amount to what is probably my favorite part of the experience, perhaps primarily because they’ve ended the album on such a dark and intense thread.

If you’ve no great love for rawness, ritual, or hypnotic dirges within the most psychedelic realms of doom metal then I’d suppose you’d disconnected from the defiant nature of heavy rock’s origins or remain unaware. Saturnalia Temple manage to retrieve the magic of classic heavy psychedelic metal and translate the auld rusted honesty of it into a high-caliber niche of their own dark creation. Perhaps the biggest difference is that back in the 70’s occult aesthetics were worn as drapery, here they are earnest points of study and belief. The result may appear dark and jarring to start but ‘Gravity’ has left a deep impression on my mind for that very reason, it stands out for advancing Saturnalia Temple‘s already impressive vision while further stylizing their ritualistic abandon with the proverbial dark edges of classic heavy rock unto garage-born, transcendental doom metal. ‘Gravity’ is a huge success, managing to approach throwback methodology and apply its grit in a way that truly enhances Saturnalia Temple unto their finest record to date. A very high recommendation is warranted.

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Artist Saturnalia Temple
Type Full-length
Released February 20, 2020
BUY & LISTEN on Listenable Records’ Bandcamp! Follow Saturnalia Temple on Facebook
Genre Psychedelic Doom Metal,
Occult Doom Metal,
Heavy Psychedelic Rock

Very high recommendation. 4.5/5.0

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