Written by Steven
When you connect with an album at a level beyond just enjoying the music, you know that the musicians have achieved something pretty amazing. For me, The World That Was (2020) by Temple of Void is an exemplar example of musicianship, which goes into that realm of being next level song writing.
These guys have been kicking around since 2013, and hail from Detroit, Michigan, and from what I’ve read online, they are well known within the local scene. In fact, according to Mettalum, 4 of the 5 members are active in other bands, including the excellent Acid Witch and Hellmouth.
Prior to this album, they had released two full length albums; their debut, Of Terror and the Supernatural (2014) and Lords of Death (2017).
Both of these earlier releases are excellent in their own way, and from the get-go there was a maturity to the way they went about making their tunes. From an interview back in 2013 posted on the website No Clean Singing guitarist Alex Awn talks about their debut, and how most of the band were in their 30s and 40s at the time of writing and release.
With that extra life experience under their belts they were able to take their time to make sure that all the elements for their music came through as they wanted. To my ears, this patient approach is evident via the great structuring of their songs, but also the sonic qualities present. Their concept of sound is Death Doom, borrowing from many of the great bands (Paradise Lost, Bolt Thrower and Asphyx have all been previously cited as influences), whilst still having their own unique character.
Their second album, Lords of Death (2017) was arguably heavier than their debut, and the soundscape shifted towards being more Death Metal, with a swarmy / verb laced album with some genuine heaviness. The exclamation point from this album was the vocals of Mike Erdody which immediately demanded attention.
In an interview posted on Barametal, the guys stated “You don’t have to compromise intensity and heaviness for the sake of writing catchy songs. The best bands know how to fuse it all together.” This is an approach that appeals to me greatly, as I like songs that have a musicality and purpose, and are also just good tunes.
On The World That Was, once again, you can hear that by applying a patient approach to every aspect of their musical creation, these guys have taken the best elements of their previous releases and delivered on all elements that make the Death Doom genre so great.
Heaviness – check!
Amazing Tones – bang!
Groove – yep!
And, once again the lead vocals by Mike Erdody are killer and delivered in a way that is intelligible and perfectly present in the mix, whilst still being ferociously brutal. They have slightly backed off the guitars in the mix, as well as the overall swishy sound from Lords of Death, but by no means does this detract, and to my ears, the overall mix sits just right.
Many bands of this genre will often go hard with loudness, which can work great in terms of filling up the sonic space, but Temple of Void have kept plenty of room in the mix, and achieved great dynamics. This doesn’t detract from the heaviness, but in fact allows their songs to come to life as the music evolves, and to breath and tell the story of the songs across the album.
Lyrically, the subject matter covers werewolves, tortuous death, and the journey to death, and are very nicely penned.
From The Casket of Shame
Where is my disconnect?
Where is my sanity?
It’s been crushed to death under humanity.
Illusion of joy,
Just to placate this meandering existence.
Oh what a fool I am, scattering myself like this.
Clawing at the ground; dredging the abyss.
Decades of lessons lost,
Imperatives left to neglect.
Too little and much too late.
The elements of ambience within this band’s music has been a feature from the start. The ambient nature of this album steps up a notch compared to their other releases, and is one of its key strengths, and probably the thing that I most connected with in terms of my listening enjoyment. It happens throughout different tracks, such as Self-Schism, where the dissonant nature of a bent single high note adds something unresolved to the music, whilst still working within the song. The use of synth and they way the music transitions from heavy guitars to ambient sounds, is very well done, sometimes floating just beneath the surface, before slowly dissolving into the music, to eventually become the key or final element.
The way that the band has played with the synth, and created their harmonies, reminds me of the musical technique “Scordatura”, which is “the technique of altering the normal tuning of a stringed instrument to produce particular effects”. I’m not talking about something like drop D tuning, which is done more to allow for a different style of playing, I’m talking about a technique to tune an instrument for a dissonant effect. A random comparison is the Austrian composer, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704) and his amazing mystery sonatas where he was one of the first notable musicians to use this effect, to create a musical experience for the purpose of higher prayer. He created a series of tunings that were designed to create dissonant note combinations to either unsettle or stimulate the mind, and allow for a almost out-of-body religious experience. The fact that these guys have created some of these elements by writing harmonies with single note combinations that theoretically may not naturally fit together, seems to be a deliberate choice to chase an unsettling moment. Click here to hear one of Biber’s works that employs Scordatura.
There is a very well-played acoustic piece called “A Single Obolus”, and again they have featured some clean vocals, which are tastefully done, and fit within the landscape of the music. The clean vocals have been present on their previous releases and add some gothic-ness, which no doubt comes from their appreciation of Paradise Lost.
The album artwork by Adam Burke is superb, with a focus on an immense landscape, with blue / greens and orange colours being used strikingly. This colour match was even carried through to their music video for Self-Schism, which is a wonderful summation of the album, with the creation of genuine atmosphere and mood, with the video dripping with the themed colours.
The Last Word
I think this album will grow in appreciation over time. It is a truly outstanding example of modern Death Doom, that has hit every height that could be expected for an underground release, and it should feature heavily within the underground scene AOTY lists for 2020. If you haven’t heard it, do your ears some justice and listen to some very fine metal.