Temple Nightside - Recondemnation - (9/10)
Published on December 4, 2018
Lest you be condemned…All over again
To my ears, there are two main groupings of bands that worship Incantation—Caverndeath bands, if I may (and I do). There are those that are more straightforward, riffy, and meaty, while expanding upon the Incantation template. These would be bands like Disma, Funebrarum, Father Befouled, etc. The other general grouping are bands who take a more atmospheric edge and turn Incantation’s sound into a whirling muck of fuckery and evil. These would be bands like Portal, Mitochondrion, and Impetuous Ritual. This is probably an overgeneralization, as many of these bands don’t fit exactly neatly in the categories (just of the bands I mentioned, Father Befouled is less “inspired” by Incantation as they “kind of are” Incantation; and Funebrarum obviously takes a lot of inspiration from Finnish death metal as well). Nonetheless, it makes it a little easier to categorize the many bands who take Incantation as their primary source of inspiration.
Temple Nightside is one of the bands that does not fit neatly into one of these two groupings. If I had to pick a side (which, for the sake of this writeup, will be more interesting, so I will), I’d say they lean more toward the whirlwind of chaos side. But! They do it in a way that is also supremely riffy. Some of the more abyssal bands (Abyssal notwithstanding) become to atmospheric for my ears. Sure, I like to be drowned in a pool of utter darkness as much as the next Tom, Sally, or Jane, but I need those sweet, sweet riffs as well. On their somewhat conceptual new album, Recondemnation (meta!), Temple Nightside strikes a perfect balance between creating a wonky, terrifying atmosphere, and giving us those bone-crushing riffs that us death metal junkies enjoy.
Now, to address the elephant in the room. Yes, this album is called Recondemnation. Their first album was called Condemnation. Why did they choose to do this? I do not know. There is probably an interview somewhere in which the band expands upon why they chose to do this. And why, even more curiously, they decided to name every song the same song names as their first album, despite the fact that, to the naked eye, there is no connection between them whatsoever. I’d be willing to bet that a clothed eye wouldn’t have an easier time spotting the connection either. In any case, it seems like more of a gimmick than anything, and doesn’t affect how enjoyable this album is, which is very.
Recondemnation is served very well by its claustrophobic, far away, yet pummeling production job. It makes the music come across as suffocating, murky, and atmospheric, while still allowing every riff to shine right through and be heard. The vocals are enhanced by the production as well, being a roaring howl. They sound like they’re coming from a dead ghost. I know ghosts are already dead, but I can’t help what I’m hearing. Every note sung seems to be stretched out and spat into eternity, poisoning the dark matter of the universe. It’s fucking eerie, man. Sometimes the vocals sound like a haunting—like the voice that whispers to people in horror movies. This is used sparingly and to creepy effect.
The riffs behind the vocals are surprisingly catchy while still being extremely heavy and violent. The order of the day is fretboard-dancing tremolo riffs that probably make present day Incantation pretty jealous. Though the guitars stick to a pretty firm template throughout, the riffs are so good that one never finds oneself wanting a change. And there are also somewhat goofy, somewhat ominous guitar solos peppered throughout that work in spite of themselves (see the ending solo of Dagger of “Necromantic Decay” to see what I mean.
The drumming is of the “blunt force trauma” variety. They are just pummeling. And kind of sound like they might be made of taped together cardboard boxes. But trust me, that’s exactly what you need. Mordance is equally adept at frantically slamming his drums into oblivion and slowing down to lend a nice, haunting crawl to the music. All in all it’s a great performance.
Most of the album is pretty fast paced until the last 3 songs. Ascension of Decaying Forms is a monolithic doomfest that features a strict and slow-paced drum beat accompanied by some of the best bass work on the album. It is in the last three tracks where the bass truly shines. You can feel the rest of the band following the bassist’s lead as he drives along. “Miasma” starts off fast and driving, with some traditional death metal riffing and tribal-esque drum beats. After about 4 minutes, the song warps into a nightmarish dream-scape, replete with hallucinatory colors and textures. This otherworldly section lasts the rest of the track. It might not be for everyone, but if you can really pay attention to the textures, it is a unique part of the album that is extremely rewarding, a march into nothingness. On the last track, Temple Nightside decides to become pretty much a straight up black metal band. It’s a weird left turn ( I suppose they could have turned either way) and a strange way to end an album. Though I think I would have preferred this song somewhere in the middle of the album, as a song itself it is quite good, and TN pull off their black metal impression flawlessly.
Throughout the album, Temple Nightside just find a way to marry atmospheric spookiness to balls-out death metal riffing in a way that not a lot of bands can do. I find myself coming back to this album over and over (and over) due to its superiority in bringing together many of the best elements of the cavern-death genre. I think TN has probably put out their best album yet. The songwriting is excellent, the riffs are great, everything is horrifying and ominous. It’s everything you could want out of atmospheric death metal and more.
Aaron’s Accuscore: 9.0