Detroit quintet Temple of Void released one of the releases that got me through 2020 with their colossal The World That Was. So, naturally, my anticipation for their fourth full length album was high. Would taking the journey into the void once again be so satisfying?
Although the depiction of the summoning of one of Lovecraft’s ‘Great Old Ones’ on the impressive album cover conveys the sense of foreboding conjured by the band’s epic death-doom metal sound, it is striking that lyrically the album strays from their previous penchant for horror fiction.
Instead, as the promo info for the album explains, vocalist and lyrics writer Mike Erdody sought to focus on the terrors within humanity, eschewing Lovecraftian cosmic horror to ponder more existential threats and fears.
Whatever the intent behind the lyrics, the overall effect of Summoning the Slayer is akin to peering into the void and realizing what lurks beyond.
The aptly titled Behind the Eye opens proceedings by beckoning the listener with hollowed out beats and a muffled, lumbering riff that slowly fades in like a distant storm. Once that storm hits, a jagged juggernaut of chugging riffs – think Slayer’s Behind the Crooked Cross but slower and no less deadly – is unleashed. Yet the riffs are tethered to Erdody’s menacing, cavernous vocals by a mix that creates a suitably gloomy texture.
Deathtouch provides a suitable contrast to the savage opener. Its prominent pulsing bassline and the cleaner, Paradise Lost inspired guitar melodies help to generate a more contemplative feel. As the song builds towards a climax, mournful synths overlay the central guitar melodies accentuating the haunting lyrics that seem to deal with how the truth of peoples’ experiences can be lost over time.
Like Deathtouch, third track Engulfed is a long song stretching over seven minutes, but it does not outstay its welcome. As with many of these tracks, it is multi-layered and rewards repeated listening. Perhaps the most harrowing song on the album, it takes the listener on a disorienting journey downwards into “exquisite darkness” courtesy of fuzz-tinged, echoey riffs that slowly build in pace and intensity.
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A Sequence of Rot is more immediately hard-hitting and possesses the album’s most memorable riff; a vibrato-soaked beast that haunts each verse and magnifies every syllable of Erdody’s strained vocals.
Throughout this record, Temple of Void borrow smartly from a range of influences beyond the traditional Death-Doom palette. The Transcending Horror is Death-Doom through a cracked alt-rock lens. Imagine if Radiohead’s Creep was performed while the band was being dragged into hell and Thom Yorke had been replaced by Pinhead from Hellraiser and you get the idea.
Closer, Dissolution sees the band display their more tender side with a track that would not be out of place on Opeth’s Damnation. Gentle acoustic guitars and synths adorn a song that offers hope within the darkness.
Although it is undoubtedly a death-doom record, the biggest compliment that I can pay Summoning the Slayer is that it rarely feels plodding or predictable. Only the slowed down old school death metal of Hex, Curse & Conjuration, which takes less risks than the other tracks, is somewhat too deliberate.
While there is nothing quite as accessible as Leave the Light Behind (from 2020’s acclaimed The World that Was) here, Temple of Void have somehow created an album that surpasses its predecessor in its scope and delivery. Their most cohesive, immersive, and haunting offering to date, Summoning the Slayer sees a band at the height of their creative powers. Peer into the void – you will not regret it.
Summoning the Slayer is out now via Relapse Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.