True to the project’s title, listening to Temple of Abraxas is something of a religious experience. No matter how intense or even violent the nature of the music gets, it’s always obscured by an oppressively mournful undertone that is both humbling and intimidating at the same time. Black metal is generally a melancholic style as it is, but the slow and bass-heavy riffing employed by Temple of Abraxas is particularly somber, while the cold, wavering guitar tone only amplifies it. Aion of Apophis just crashes down on the listener, completely suffocating everything in it’s contagiously depressive atmosphere. Forbidden Records’ latest release has made a distinct progression from the 2016 self-titled Temple of Abraxas, in that there’s an undeniable presence and sense of power behind the music without said power ever needing to be demonstrated.
Much like the ocean, Aion of Apophis is slow, consistent, and absolutely immense; once a riff is introduced, it’s there to stay for a significant portion of the track. Even as riffs change, they transition smoothly into each other as one ever-evolving guitar line with the generously-mixed bass bouncing right beneath it. Beyond the atmosphere-establishing synth tracks that carry the opening and closing of the entire album, the riffs truly feel like one continuous stream that’s warping regularly as it trails across the ground. The haunting beauty of the droning, sorrow-stained soundscape is remarkable in that it gradually builds itself into this swirling intensity and then fades out to silence, never taking a single step that feels unnatural. The climax comes and goes with an impressive fluidity.
Temple of Abraxas tends towards repetition in numerous ways, and while this makes for a unified album, any problems that you might find with the music at the beginning will likely never be addressed. The most dynamic element is the vocals, which sound solemn and ritualistic at some points but frighteningly visceral at others. “Deathless,” for instance, sees a sharp increase in vocal ferocity as the stringed instruments carry the rest of the song as consistently as ever. But when it comes to nitpicking, my personal issue was with the sound of the drumming. It still serves it’s purpose as percussion and the synths that are expertly infused within the album take some of the weight off, but the drums just sound lifeless and full. My attention was able to be shifted elsewhere at various points, but that is one particular issue with the overall sound that never resolved itself to any degree.
Aion of Apophis is a fantastically satisfying step in a more somber and atmospheric direction for Temple of Abraxas, and it’s a full-length album that really works well with itself. There’s no jarring missteps, no out of place interlude track, and there’s certainly no questionable artistic vision; there’s just a reasonable variety of disorienting and spirit-dampening black metal.