When Temple Of Void released Of Terror And The Supernatural back in 2014, they had their sights set. The album sounded like proper death / doom ought to sound: not just slow death metal or doom metal with growled vocals, but a proper hybrid of the styles. It doesn’t sound that difficult in theory, but there are few bands who walk the line so perfectly these days as Temple Of Void. Sure, the Hooded Menace comparison can be thrown around—after all, they probably are the closest contemporaries Temple Of Void have—but they lean a little more to the death metal side of the balance beam. Temple Of Void more so embraced the gothic feeling of doom in their sound, giving it an even more sinister twist of death amongst their lower-than-low guitars and the powerful, harrowing vocal performance of Mike Erdody (Borrowed Time, Acid Witch). Gutteral, dripping, and yet crystal clear, the vocals are a huge selling point for the band as they resonate with the lyrical themes of otherworldly, mind-bending horror. They captured a niche that seemed so obvious that it’s almost familiar, yet there isn’t a single band to my knowledge that captures the pure feeling of death / doom that appeals equally to fans of say, the pummeling chugging of Asphyx and sorrowful atmosphere of My Dying Bride. Both are different approaches to the same thing, and Temple Of Void proved capable of walking the thin line betwixt the two.
While the prior efforts wasted little time getting into some of the more energetic riffing Temple Of Void offers, The World That Was opens with a comfortable mid-tempo before lurching down to a near-funeral doom dirge around the halfway point of “A Beast Among Us.” The lead guitar sits comfortably in the back, providing more atmosphere than up-front melody, furthering the funeral doom vibes that bring acts like Shape Of Despair and Slow to mind, if only in depth and mood. “Self-Schism” opens again with energy that gives way to the crushing, weighted doom. Temple Of Void are leaning way more into the slower tempos, relying heavily on atmosphere, suspense, and builds. The bridge drops down to mostly bass and drums as the song reconstructs in an impressively patient crescendo. While the build is an enjoyable journey, it just sort of drops off without quite as much payoff as felt promised.
As has become custom for the band, “A Single Obolus” is a classical guitar interlude. It feels a bit early for an interlude—perhaps a touch out of place—but the playing is no less passionate for it. With retrospect after a full listen, its placement does make a twisted sort of sense, as it coils back for the more unexpected twist in the band’s sound in the following track. “Leave The Light Behind” drops into a driving mid-tempo with the leads taking a bit more of the reins in terms of melody. The real change in sound comes with the clean vocals. While Lords Of Death had a small section of cleans on “Graven Desires” (hitting right at the climax of the record for an absolutely stellar highlight), the cleans here take on full chorus duties, and feeling less tortured and projecting more of reluctant release and acceptance in a small shift in songwriting approach that makes a world of difference to the building of tension across the track. The construction of the bridge here may not be as big, but it does deliver for one of the stronger and more memorable tracks on The World That Was.
It’s been clear up to this point that Temple Of Void are expanding, moving more into long-form structure than the somewhat more immediate, song-by-song gratification of their previous records. “Casket Of Shame” begins again with a driving mid-tempo with extreme headbanging potential; it’s almost impossible not to nod along with the plodding chug of the tempo. The song then shifts directions to a more lead-friendly section. Nothing too fancy, and it’d be unexpected from the band at this point. The band work with solid blocks of simplicity to create something bigger, and at this point it’s clear the second half of the record is what the band really wanted to do with the album. The song progresses and shifts with ease into a megalith of death / doom punishment that finally delivers with full force.
The title track confirms the theory as to the band’s direction, taking Temple Of Void into more expansive territories. The overall centerpiece of their prior works revolved primarily around an urgency in the riffs, like the band was attempting with futility to move quickly through a murky swamp. The World That Was is an apt name for the title of the album, as the song it is named after represents the band’s evolution to songwriting as the main driving force, leaving behind the world previously established. It’s almost frustrating how well it’s pulled off at the end of the album, given how the songs in the first half seemed to just die off after the crescendo. In the prior tracks, Temple Of Void seemed almost reluctant to let go of their earlier style, starting with faster tempos and then dropping into builds. “The World That Was” is pure tension-wielding, starting slow and working its way up, adding elements as it manifests. Foreboding leads creep their way in and suspended synths capture suspense across their vast webs beneath the undying crunch of the guitar.
The band absolutely nail it on the closer, which makes the overall impression of The World That Was as that of a transition album. The execution comes across more in the way Of Terror And The Supernatural did against Lords Of Death: a little more loose, as though the band are trying a few things on for size to see what works. The World That Was is still a strong album, just in need of a bit more stabilization and fluidity. The closing track alone proves the band have the chops to step up and deliver on their progressive songwriting. If they can continue to bring the heat of the back half of the album, they are set to evolve into an even more massive powerhouse of horror and despair. They’ve already perfected straightforward death / doom, and if Temple Of Void fully commit to pushing forward on their next effort, it will make The World That Was an important transition piece in their discography to that of something greater.