Anonymity in metal is nothing new – from the mainstream (Kiss, Slipknot, Ghost…) through to the blackest end of the spectrum (insert any of a number of Mgła clones) but it remains an effective technique in provoking interest: why are the band members masked? Is it because of who they are? Is it a statement? Are they protecting something … or hiding something? Too many questions, and most will never be answered, especially in the extreme end of the pool, where media attention is less invasive.
Tempestarii, from Boise, Idaho, fall among this latter grouping – not only in anonymity but in their vehicle of expression. Like the aforementioned Mgła, their debut album Temple of Skies (following two independent demo releases) straddles the atmospheric and depressive black metal sub-genres, drawing equally from both stylistically.
What Tempestarii does differently, though, is the acoustic side of things. A fair proportion of atmospheric black metal bands create said atmosphere through the building of a wall of tremolo picked, high treble noise (have no fear, there’s still plenty of that to be had – see the middle bridge on “Gaian Mind” for example), but on tracks like “Holy Dread” and “Shroud of Horns”, Tempestarii add clean acoustic passages: the folk-like, gentle nature of these provide unexpected relief from their otherwise punishing music.
Yet to sample Temple of Skies? Check out the full album stream here.
The five-track album (which nevertheless comes in at just less than an hour) is everything you could hope for from an atmospheric black metal release: unsettling, dynamic and ritualistic. But it’s also a little messy and the drum sound falls a little flat – which, thankfully, are not deal-breakers within a genre famed for its historical disavowal of high-end production values. In fact, the rawness adds dimension and authenticity, lending a harried, frantic air to the proceedings – as if Temple of Skies were less an album being recorded than a malignant spirit being contained as quickly as possible. Even “Gold Lattice”, the longest and slowest cut on the record, feels more like a pacing before a final sprint than a down-tempo composition when listened to as an element of the greater whole. Lyrical references in this track (terms like abraxas, ivory gates and a ‘golden boned procession’) enhance the occult and ritual mood even further.
All this adds up to a weighty listening experience: emotional, draining and unlike a lot of other contemporary music, believable in its expression of negative human experience. That said, once the final strains of “Neurosis” die away, the overwhelming response is one of catharsis – of surviving something daunting, but feeling spiritually cleansed.
Temple of Skies Track Listing:
01. Holy Dread
02. Gaian Mind
03. Shroud of Horns
04. Gold Lattice
Run Time: 53:15
Release Date: January 18, 2019
Record Label: Mercenary Musik