Scenario A: a man sitting at a roadside diner suddenly gets popped by a sniper
Scenario B: an 18-wheeler ploughs into a man walking next to a road
In both scenarios the end result is the same. Scenario A is obviously a tad more discreet and clinical (though the psychological dimensions of being offed by an unseen enemy are quite unsettling), while Scenario B is just flat-out visceral, and certainly quite a spectacle to behold.
Without digressing any further, my point is basically this: French act TEMPLE OF BAAL’s earlier strictly Black Metal material was of the sniper variety – cold, eerie and evil. “Lightslaying Rituals”, their excellently titled new album, though, is of the 18-wheeler variety – loud, bloody, and mercilessly brutal. No longer lurking the forests, but defiantly marching down the street and kicking down doors, flame-thrower in one hand and sledge-hammer in the other, TEMPLE OF BAAL circa 2009 is a band taking names with primal ferociousness.
“Lightslaying Rituals” delivers the kind of blunt-force trauma that comes thick and fast from all directions, undoubtedly more rooted in Death Metal than before, and armed to the hilt with instantly memorable riffs that are as intense as they are memorable. The fantastic production job is also an entity unto itself, giving the whole thing an even more in-your-face vibe that is simply planet-crushing to say the least. A good reference point for this kind of production would be fellow French act YYRKOON’s “Occult Medicine” album. In spite of its unswerving focus on sonic brutality the album stays remarkably consistent and enjoyable throughout, hitting a highpoint early on with the one-two punch of “Triumph Of Heretic Fire” and “Black Sun Of The Damned”, two tracks that are incidentally also the thrashiest of the bunch. Other killer moments also abound – specifically “Hate Is My Name” with its wicked chorus (“Hate is my name, unholy my domain, never to be tamed, hate is my name!!) and brutal groove (yes, it’s possible...). These are the instant highlights but the whole album is of a consistently high quality. The opening riffs always grab you by the throat (aided greatly by the aforementioned labyrinthine production), a riff and/or tempo shift is always around the corner, and even the slightly chaotic Kerry King-like solos are a blast. One final aspect that needs mention is the actual guitar work. This isn’t one of those sloppy albums where you get handed autopilot palm-muted grooving; you can easily hear the attack on the strings, something that shines when the band break loose with some of those Thrash tendencies I mentioned earlier.
All in all, a devastating album and one hell of a positive surprise for yours truly. TEMPLE OF BAAL epitomises a technically sound and vibrant fusion of insane intensity, subtle melody, and more killer Death and Thrash riffs that you can shake a stick at. Definitely a band to look out for!
(Online February 1, 2010)