Satan surely smiles on France. Not because they’re content to let the world war around them, but because there is an awful lot of God hatin’ goin’ on up in that bitch. Several French bands over the last few years have made names for themselves, due in no small measure to their blatant contempt for Christianity. But let it be known regarding this acrimonious fraternity that Antaeus, Glorior Belli, and Deathspell Omega, each and all masterfully sinister, have little to match the face impaling ferocity of Temple of Baal’s third album.
The rectors of Lightslaying Rituals call their music black metal, a description that captures the band’s aesthetic, and the sound on previous offerings, but barely begins to describe what they’ve done on this new record. If this is black metal, it is fucking heavy black metal. Sure, there is a boatload of tremolo, but it’s downtuned. Yes, there are blastbeats, but they carry all the weight of a mudslide. And there are riffs. Riffs upon massive, skull fucking riffs. And, if that sounds like death metal, it’s because that’s what this is. Death metal in corpsepaint, maybe. Think Vader does Deströyer 666 and throw in Shrapnel’s Razor of Occam lead work, and you’ve got a rough idea of the sound on Lightslaying Rituals. And it does, indeed, slay.
The production here is done with one clear purpose: to accentuate and celebrate those monster riffs from within an appropriately suffocating wall of sound. Most notably, each instrument is just greasy enough to be satisfying, while the mix prevents them from sliding too far over and into each other. It’s all tight enough that there’s barely room between the riffs for melody, but the band manage just a touch on a couple of tracks, “Blessings of Blackfire” being one clear example. In fact, damn near the whole album happens within a pretty narrow range of mid- to low-end, fuzzy notes. Except the leads, which swoop around miles above the fracas, darting from the heights to lay Slayer-sharp razor cuts upon your face again and again; the lead on “Vectors of the Void” is particularly flesh rending. Of course, every two or three jabs to the face deserve a crippling body blow and Temple of Baal deliver these with pile driver force, as well. The breakdown midway through crusher, “Dead Cult” will leave you doubled over and begging for more, please. “Angstgeist” throws it all at you with a calculated cudgeling, forcing you irrecoverably to your knees (check out the steamroller riff at about a minute and a half).
I realize I’ve a worked whole heap of hyperbole into this review, but I promise it’s actually only a little bit exaggerated. This is immensely heavy metal that just plain smashes all pretenses. So refreshing, that. It is a bit ironic that the badassery of Lightslaying Rituals was spawned in the land of cheese loving surrender monkeys, but if France’s exports should continue to include such fantastic hate-spewing fireballers as Temple of Baal, I’ll take them over Freedom Fries any day.