The album is immediately recognisable as Temple of Void, with their crushing wall of guitars, rumbling bass and Mike Erdody’s cavernous death growls. What’s immediately striking, aside from the vivid album art, is how well produced this album is. Production was never a weak point of any of their albums, but Summoning the Slayer sounds incredible. Just incredible. There’s a clarity to the sound, and while definitely more polished than the first two albums, the necessary distortion, atmosphere and earth-shaking heaviness is still there. This change in production works really well with the stylistic changes that the band has also made. Which brings me to my next point – the earlier Temple of Void material was death-doom, with an emphasis on the death metal side. There was always a particular ferocity, and enough up tempo songs, to keep a kind of death metal energy throughout the albums. On Summoning the Slayer, Temple of Void has slowed down and incorporated more influence from bands like Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride to create a more doomy vibe. There’s an eeriness and a melancholy here that I don’t feel was as present in their previous albums. There is an orchestral feel to some songs and some melodic guitar sections that reveals a much doomier side of the band, particularly on the single Deathtouch, which is a fucking BEAST of a song. Beautiful in parts, but utterly crushing and cavernous. The opening, with Mike’s vocals booming over eerie guitar, is just perfect. As a huge fan of the more gothic death-doom of England and Sweden, I like what Temple of Void have done here. Given the lyrical subject matter, which deals with mortality, anxiety and depression, it feels like the shift in the style of the music fits the lyrics nicely.
The stripped down, less dense sound of the album, compared to Lords of Death for example, really allow the band’s diverse influences and experimentation to come through. The psychedelic elements that we saw on the band’s last album are still apparent on tracks like Engulfed, along with some epic blackened melo-death at the end of that song. The Transcending Horror sees the band blend gothic death-doom with riffs that remind me of early shoegaze or even The Cure. Hex, Curse and Conjuration is really the only time that the band shifts into a higher gear, with a relatively up-tempo song more reminiscent of the first two albums. Overall, the songs are really well structured, and it feels like on this album we are seeing a very mature band moving into a new phase of musical experimentation.
At 40 minutes long, while this is not a short album, and yet I felt that it could have used one more song to round it out. The concluding track is a short, 70s folk-infused rock song called Dissolution that would seem more at home on an Opeth album than a Temple of Void album. It’s a strange choice and stylistically quite jarring even after listening to the album 10 or 15 times. For people who dig it, the song perhaps provides some relief from 35-odd minutes of misery preceding it. Like so many other great bands, Temple of Void have never shied away from experimentation, even if the result is polarising.
Overall, this is a new direction for Temple of Void, but one that fits them very well. For those like myself who love Temple of Void for their crushing riffs, hellish vocals and titanic songs, all of those things are still present on Summoning the Slayer, and the band has perhaps never sounded better. Having just caught them on tour in Germany with Solothus recently, I can also say that the Temple of Void are not to be missed live, as well as being simply lovely humans, so be sure to catch them in the flesh some time.