Swedish duo Temisto make a rousing first appearance with their scathing self-titled death metal debut. It effectively and efficiently combines old sounds with modern songwriting and clean guitar work. On the surface this doesn’t sound like it should work or have any sort of staying power — we’ve all heard that song and dance before. But the band pulls it off in spades. It’s an amalgam of brute force, catchy rhythmic structures and thought provoking, near meditative passages.
Any assumptions of this band’s sound based on their place of origin are quickly squashed in the opening minutes. Absent is the typical buzz saw guitar and thick layer of filth that is so prevalent in the decades old lineage and arc of Swedeath. As close as they get is in the punk influenced percussion that permeates several of the tracks here.
In the spectrum of technicality Temisto recalls early Atheist, particularly on “Descent Into Madness”. Tempo changes are in the double digits and each passage is heavily layered with precise math-like riffs. In addition, influences of early Death can be heard on “Medusa” with the stunning guitar work taking a front seat throughout. It’s times like these that make it more unbelievable that a) this is a two piece and b) this is their debut.
In striking contrast lies “The Ritual” with only clean, quiet guitar work that is as haunting as it is blissful. It’s a truly beautiful peace that again, shouldn’t work as well as it does but it offers a refreshing moment to come up for air. However with two tracks like this and at least three more songs that use this clean approach it winds up being a little overused. Not taking anything away from the artistic merit here but it’s simply overdone and in the back half of the album it seems to take the spotlight away from the band’s exceptional modern twist on death metal.
Highlight “Temple of the Damned” is simply put, a beast, no noodling or clean parts here. The vocals are a heady brew of black metal screams and death metal heft. The transitions from lumbering death metal to near grindcore speed come in the blink of an eye. One of the things that stands out the most here, and really throughout, is how the band leans on so many different influences but never overdo it or come off as trying too hard. It’s common, particularly on a debut to go too far with way too much at one time but the way it’s done here plays to the band’s strengths.
On Temisto, the band take the tried and true chemistry of death metal, inject a modern flavor and come away with an invigorating and addictive debut. True they overdid it with the clean sections but even those sound like a step forward for the genre. Death metal fans looking for something a little off the beaten path will find a gold mine to dig into with this album and will find more and more to like with each successive spin.