Review: Temple Nightside – The Hecatomb
Beyond death, the dark awaits. Temple Nightside will take you there.
Picture the sepulchral feel of Derkéta‘s In Death We Meet combined with the dim crematory overtones of bands such as Vassafor and (old) Cadaveric Fumes, for it is there, in the midst of this vexing cloud of gloom, that Temple Nightside dwell. Since their inception in 2010, Australia’s Temple Nightside have gradually increased from a two-man operation to a trio after their 2013 debut full-length Condemnation. 2016’s The Hecatomb sees the outfit grow again, now bolstered into a quartet, and the outcome of this addition has brought a sense of refinement and that of a more concerted effort in general. Throughout its 40 minute run-time, the album creeps in the shadows, beckoning you deeper and deeper beyond the realm of light. The Hecatomb rarely breaks out beyond the mid-tempo range during its 9 tracks, preferring to lurk amidst the murk of slower dirges and the fog of reverb-soaked occultism.
After first hearing Iron Bonehead’s track premiere a few weeks back, I wrote a message detailing my first impressions of the vocals to a couple of fellow bowl-dwellers. As I
am lazy would like you to get the complete unabridged account, I will just recite them here – “The vocals sound like some demonic priest yelled into a coffin 400 years ago and the reverberations have been echoing around in there ever since.” Once you open the lid they spill out of the casket like dry ice, and vaporously sublimate into the surrounding atmosphere. Eloquent? No. Accurate? Go find a sealed 400 year old coffin and find out. The fourth track, “Fortress of Burden and Distress”, has some ritualistic sermon-like choral backing, befitting of a black requiem. Antithetical to a Gregorian chant, it serves to usher in the ambient interlude track “The Murderous Victor (Commune 3.2)”, with its foreboding whispered threats of devastation, portending to the triumph of evil. Both the hushed taunts and psalm-like admonitions combine on the 7-minute album centrepiece “Within the Arms of Nothingness”.
The guitar-work consists predominantly of steadily picked single note malevolence that swirls from the black, filling the cold air like a swarm of ravenous bats heading out to patrol the night sky. Interspersed are the thick chugs that are no doubt the sound of the colossal stone doors of the ancient mortuary being slid shut in stages behind you, trapping you in the tomb’s obsidian gleam. Throughout the album, Temple Nightside’s guitarists proffer scant lead spots, preferring to let the prevailing nightmarish atmosphere established by their prudent yet powerful riffing carry the songs through. However, when they do decide to embellish, a chaotic atonal style is employed, confounding the observer like some funerary stele bearing an archaic inscription of glyphs from an antediluvian lexicon.
I’m not quite sure if bassist IV has utilised the technique of recording two bass tracks (one clean and one distorted) as he does on his solo project Ill Omen, but the bass does have a strong presence regardless. While we’re on the topic of IV’s performance, his vocals here are a little more comprehensible than in Ill Omen, but no less menacing. The album owes a great deal of the aforementioned menace to its tempo. Although The Hecatomb‘s overall pacing is quite unhurried in comparison to an album such as Cruciamentum‘s Charnel Passages, the note choices during its hastier tremolo riffs are quite similar. However, contrary to what you may think that implies, the album’s slower momentum hardly fosters a languorous climate. The resultant effect is strongly alluring and almost hypnotic. The mysterious atmosphere they exude could easily help you discover if you’re prone to aurally-induced catalepsy.
The percussion on The Hecatomb has a slightly dulled tone, which perfectly matches the production aesthetic of the rest of the recording. As I don’t proclaim to be expert on production, I don’t know whether it’s closer to your typical hall, church or cathedral reverbs, so I’m going to dub it “Crypt reverb” [© Lizard Pty. Ltd (2016)]. Even when things slow down, the cymbals seem to attempt to keep the pace up, tinging away while the bass and snare drums lurch along like a crypt keeper suffering a particularly severe case of dead leg. As a whole, the drums seem quite unassuming on the surface, but upon closer inspection they actually offer a decent variety of beats and techniques. Such is the case for the release in general. Once you brush off the top layers of accumulated dust, there are some interesting adornments to be discovered.
Ambience is deftly incorporated into the mix. Like the late night’s brume settling into the valleys between undulating hills, the chilling atmosphere blankets the troughs between sonic peaks. Their cumulative effect helping the songs slowly spread across your mind, as lichen gradually inches across tombstones, if left to their own devices, these tracks will eventually cloak your psyche. The killer cover art was created using acrylic on wood by Nekronikon, who has recently worked with Qrixkuor, Void Meditation Cult, Cruciamentum, and Slaughterday. If you’re into the haunting atmosphere brought forth by bands such as Impetuous Ritual, Irkallian Oracle and Grave Upheaval but crave something with a much more stolid and funereal presentation, then look no further than Temple Nightside’s The Hecatomb.
4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
The Hecatomb releases on August 5th through the perennial Iron Bonehead Productions.