It can take a band some time to find its footing. For France’s Temple of Baal it took about sixteen years. What put them over the top was finding their own sound—which is heavily atmospheric and very conducive to methodical and stress relieving head banging. The touches of atmosphere on Mysterium combined with excellent production and more restraint than Temple of Baal have previously shown makes for a fantastic foray into an abyss of dark occultism.
Before the October 2015 release of Mysterium, Temple of Baal were a blackened death metal project focused on fury. Not surprising considering on their earlier albums, meaning 2003 and before, the band was a standard occultist black metal act. Their 2013 release, Verses of Fire, found the band experimenting with atmosphere. The elements were there. But, the core of the band was still a chaotic storm of fury that just didn’t get over the hump. Where song length was previously all over the place, including some three minute grinders, Mysterium features songs between six and ten minutes in length. Always mapped, planned and completed.
Two years later, with the release of Mysterium, Temple of Baal have become a mature, solid band forging their own path. Perhaps it’s the addition of Saroth on guitars (who replaced Alastor). Perhaps it was Skvm’s new drum sound (which thickened the mix and added a cavernous, echoing tinge to the music). Regardless of the catalyst, the band found their sound. A movement in two parts, the fifth track, “Dictum Ignis,” a beautiful monk-like chant begins the album’s slow descent into the end. It also sets the stage for the album’s crescendo, “Holy Art Thou.”
Amduscias hasn’t changed his vocal delivery so much as his cadence and lyrical choices. Straight forward lyrics dealing with death, darkness and the occult, when sung clearly and passionately, are enough to draw the listener in, forming a connection similar to eye contact. The lyrics are dark, dealing with death and religion in a way that is almost inquisitive, which comes as a shock since dark bands tend to radiate utter confidence and conviction in their theology. The almost sing-a-long chorus of “Hosanna” only serves to further solidify the intimate connection between the listener and the music.
The vinyl edition will feature a cover of Bathory’s “The Golden Walls of Heaven” a small nod to the band’s influences, although Mysterium does not suffer the fate of being highly derivative of Bathory. Rather, with stellar, tastefully placed guitar work, the band moves closer to the blackened death metal elites of Grave Miasma, Necros Christos, Dead Congregation and Pseudogod. Temple of Baal are a band nearly twenty years in the making, but they have arrived here in 2015 with Mysterium.