Written by Ellis
Terra Builder – Solar Temple
> Releasing September 29
> Transcending Obscurity Records
Transcending Obscurity are pretty much always good for a particularly extreme kind of W and this debut album from German deathgrinders Terra Builder should definitely add another three points to their tally – that’s a football reference everybody, proper English, or in this case German, football, not the stuff Kep is always going on about. Anyway, sorry, Solar Temple is bleak and violent and dark and relentless and basically all the things you’d want a deathgrind album to be, with a little bit extra on top of that.
Featuring current and former members of various German bands like Ferndal (melodic black metal), Neorite (thrash/groove metal), and perhaps most notably Neaera (basically one of those melodeathy metalcore bands), most of Terra Builder may have cut their teeth in other subgenres but they sure as shit know how to deathgrind. Drummers especially always have their work cut out in this sort of thing and in this case Yannick Bussweiler absolutely crushes it with all the blasts and double kicks you’d expect but also a fair whack of groove which really gives some sort of shape to what could otherwise be a far more formless if still thoroughly enjoyable mass of violence.
Second track “Interplanetary Portal” provides a great early example of how this works; it lurches into life quickly enough and spends most of its time blasting its way through a three and a bit minute runtime, but it’s the drop to a particularly compelling groove around the 2:15 mark that really grabs the listener’s attention and guarantees stankfaces all round. The title track flips the balance a bit more the other way, sandwiching passages of frantic blasting dissonance with big filthy pinch harmonic riffs and chugs that make this one probably the strongest and most memorable track on the record. The point is whichever way the band choose to balance things always seems to work pretty well, the frequent lurching from breakneck intensity to more immediately headbangable passages making Solar Temple far less predictable and all the more engaging for it.
Generally, guitarists Tobias Buck and Ben Guddorf match Bussweiler with either a big thick wash of low-end tremolo picking or a more tangible riff or groove, but they also punctuate and accentuate a lot of tracks with bursts of frenetic lead work that add more of an unhinged edge to the music. Bassist Lutz Lambert holds down the low-end beneath them, performing largely as expected but no less essential, while vocalist Rene Wichmann is credited just for “throat” which is funny because it sounds like he’s doing everything he can to destroy his. He’s got a real savage scorcher of a bark, backed occasionally by the even more guttural force of Buck’s growls.
So far, so deathgrind, perhaps, but that’s not all there is to Solar Temple. Someone’s spilled a fair amount of black and sludge metal all over this, the former predictably most obvious in the more blast beat driven sections of tracks like “Abyss” and “Dead Celestial” and to an extent pretty much all of them, and the latter providing more of a blanket that just envelopes the whole thing and makes it that much more suffocating. To be clear, injecting a few extra influences into your sound isn’t an end in itself, but it works here because as much as you might be able to point to one particularly blackened part or sludgy part, by and large it just coagulates into a single pitch black mass that seems to slowly choke its way down your throat for about 32 minutes.
Admittedly, with literally zero respite even that quite sensibly tight runtime does start to feel a little taxing. There is variation here, but it is all deeply oppressive and miserable and there aren’t really any proper moments of quiet. Obviously that was the band’s intention, and no-one’s asking it to be post-metal, but perhaps a couple of creeping ominous moments could break up the onslaught just a little while still keeping with the overall feel of the record.
On that, it’s also worth mentioning that Solar Temple carries something of a dark sci-fi theme. It’s apparent enough in the name and the track titles, and frustratingly for someone who’s meant to be putting it into words it is kind of hard to explain quite how that translates into the music other than it just does. Maybe it’s just the pervasive darkness that seems to hang over the whole thing that recalls the kind of constant threat one might feel when watching Alien or something like that, but the fact is that there is something about the atmosphere of Solar Temple that goes beyond just the extremity of the music and seems to linger even after it’s finished.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Look, obviously Solar Temple is quite hard work and it will need a good few listens before you can really take much away from it other than “aaaaah“, but if you are generally inclined to this proper extreme and even somewhat forward-thinking type of deathgrind – like Knoll or Full of Hell or Pig Destroyer or one of those sorta bands – then you’re probably gonna find more and more to like about this the more time you spend with it. Some people might tap out from the first listen and that’s fine, but others might have just found their new favourite drill to drive into their own skull.