Temple of Phobos

Cower power
dB rating: 8/10

Release Date: July 1, 2016
Label: Dark Descent

Vanhelgd might get billed as a death metal band, but Temple of Phobos could more precisely be called anti-life metal. Not that we’re here to nitpick about genre—most of us can agree that they’re labels of convenience that often miss the point—but saying “death metal” conjures levels of brutality and sonic violence that just are not present through most of this Swedish quartet’s fourth full-length monstrosity. Sure, the title track introduces some recognizably deathy riffing, but most of the album roils in a much more atmospheric space where the virtues of righteous living are (presumably) condemned as fatuous, and the acceptance of the Great Death is celebrated. Vanhelgd are not here to raise you to a higher plane of reality, but they might drag you through several of existence’s lower layers.

Initially, the pacing can be off-putting. The blackened, middling tempos of opener “Lamentations of the Mortals” and “Rebellion of the Iniquitous” are more pedestrian than exciting, but something happens as “Den klentrognes klagan” dawns: Crystalline female chanting gleam beneath those abyssal growls, and a bit of (synthetic?) brass lights up the guitars’ masterful dirge. Somehow, these minor accents crack open the almost ceremonial code of the album and cast rays of accessibility into its heart. “Gravens lovsång” twists a kinetic lead into robe-shrouded doom with gorgeous clean melodies. The remainder of the album continues to flow downhill (in attitude, not quality), until the hidden track at the end quickens the pulse and fully embraces black metal’s anti-vitality. This Temple’s a total grower.

— Daniel Lake
This review taken from the October 2016 issue.

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