Condemnation, the debut full-length from Australian death metal duo Temple Nightside, is an unrelenting assault of pitch-black, lo-fi nastiest. Fiendish fun guaranteed.
There's something inherently wrong about reading the Facebook feed of a nasty metal band. It just doesn't seem right. All communications should be scratched on parchment, in blood, and delivered at midnight by the damned. But then, I guess networking is what it’s about these days. Gone are the days of combing underground zines for tips on new bands, and tape-trading circles have transformed into download-sharing forums.
Still, while crotchety old curmudgeons like myself might gripe about that state of affairs, there’s no doubt the Internet has been an absolute boon for underground metal bands and fans. Certainly, if not for all the hours I’ve lurked on website Metal Archives, I wouldn’t have discovered Australian duo Temple Nightside -- or the band’s monstrous split release with Canadian master of mysterious murk, Antediluvian (see 2012’s Cogitating Vacuous).
Mind you, Temple Nightside hasn’t exactly been disadvantaged by its down-under location. Australia has plenty of highly regarded extreme metal bands -- such as Portal, Impetuous Ritual, and Ignivomous -- and the nation has produced a raft of other great metal groups throughout the genre’s history. That reputation counts in Temple Nightside's favor, to a degree, but other fortuitous circumstances also surround the release of the band's recent debut album, Condemnation.
The album is being co-released by label Nuclear Winter (founded by AV, from Greek death metal legend Dead Congregation), and US-based label Dark Descent (which has had an unstoppable run of first-rate death metal releases over the past couple of years). That's a lot of elements staked in Temple Nightside’s favor already. Add in that aforementioned appearance alongside Antediluvian, and Temple Nightside’s 2011 Prophecies of Malevolence EP -- which also yielded encouraging reviews -- and you get a sense of the expectant pressure bearing down on Temple Nightside’s first full-length.
Listening to Condemnation, it’s obvious that multi-instrumentalist and vocalist IV and drummer Basilysk spend no time dwelling on others’ expectations. You can forgot notions of external pressure. The only stress the band is interested in is outwardly focused -- ensuring its intensity can shred the nerves of potential fans.
"Ritualistic Death Metal Necromancy" is what the band promises, and that's precisely what Condemnation delivers, in caustic torrents. Tracks like "Shrine of Summon (The Great Opposer)", "Exhumation; Miseries upon Imprecation" and "Abhorrent They Fall..." are all death metal bezerkers, dragging the bloody corpses of tremolo onslaughts and bitterly cold black metal behind them. The song titles alone present a clear picture that evil sounds, occult axioms, and ill-intentioned convictions are expected, and IV's echoing howls from Hades, and Basilysk's unrelenting percussive battering, certainly bring all the anticipated sonic and thematic sinisterness.
Obviously, those ingredients aren’t unique, and Temple Nightside is not unlike countless other blackened death metal bands, undertaking the same atmospheric assault. It's the devilish details that count, if you want to make a mark, and "Pillar of Ancient Death (Commune 2.1)" and "Command of the Bones (Commune 2.2)" -- both comprised of horror-house ambient synth -- make for a couple of eerie and droning interludes.
However, it's the album's final song, the nine-minute "Miasma", that's Condemnation's most interesting track. The song is a doomier trawl than most, bleeding as much outright acidic noise as it does demonic ichor, and "Miasma" follows a path that’s well worth exploring, for two important reasons. First, Temple Nightshade does the unremitting satanic savagery extremely well, but so do other bands on Dark Descent and Nuclear Winter’s roster -- like Maveth, Paroxsihzem, or Cruciamentum. However, "Miasma" offers a grim and grinding point of difference, and that’s a crucial personality point, too. Secondly, you’re going to find more familiar tracks being followed elsewhere on Condemnation. That’s somewhat inescapable, given the album speaks of grotty death metal as much as sub-zero, black metal worship -- with nods to Bathory, Darkthrone, and Gorgoroth. But, "Miasma" takes its own tack in that regard, and it has a distinctive mix of primitivism and mysticism worth pushing further.
Not that we should focus on "Miasma" alone, because the cavernous hiss-storm of “Ascension of Decaying Forms” is an equally powerful and corrosive track. As a whole, Condemnation isn't as dense as the superlative old-school analog murk found on Grave Miasma's latest, Odori Sepulcrorum. However, what Condemnation lacks in thickness is more than made up for by distorting lo-fi filth. There's a vintage abrasiveness and echo here that suits Condemnation’s overall tone perfectly -- and the album sinks to frozen depths that negate any chance of Australia's sun heating things up.
All up, Condemnation is a pitch-black blitz of nastiness. It’s fiendish and ferocious, and that gnawing harshness situates Temple Nightside right alongside bands like Krypts, Craven Idol, and Lantern -- all of whom have released impressively vitriolic and venomous debuts on Dark Descent this year. Temple Nightside has all the promise required to mark it down as a band to watch closely in the future. In the meantime, hell (and of course Condemnation) awaits.