If it wasn’t abundantly clear from both the band name and album title, the Temple of Abraxas album called Temples Forlorn explores the concept of temples, and, far more interestingly, the tragic backstories and powerful forces surrounding them. In order to convey this, the sole musician involved (who goes by the pseudonym “Frater Azoth”) has carefully woven together a hypnotic soundscape that invites the listener into what feels like some surreal, somber recollection of events past, present, and future. The gentle, mid-paced atmospheric black metal taking up most of the soundscape is relaxed and controlled, while the vocals and synths amplify the emotion in a negative and positive direction, respectively.
The vocals in question make up one of the most important elements of the Temple of Abraxas sound in that they provide some much-needed ferocity. Some songs on this album are more intense than others (see “Into the Ancient Light” versus the title track), but, for the most part, the burden of brutality or anything close to it falls on the biting, lo-fi screams and snarls. A comparison with the band Summoning would really emphasize what I’m talking about here: there’s rarely a truly chaotic moment in the instrumentation of either band’s work, but both manage to make their music unquestionably “extreme” with their vocal delivery alone. Often times the percussion can have a similar effect in black metal, but the drums on Temples Forlorn aren’t anything special. They get the job done, but the drumming is easily the weakest link in the project.
But for all the bits and pieces that make up the whole, the project’s overall greatest strength is the emotion that it embodies so effectively. There’s the aforementioned hatred, which is fairly standard for black metal, but there’s a different feeling that looms over the entirety of the release, unwavering between tracks. Once again, the album title should give you a clue towards what kind of emotion you’re going to find in Temples Forlorn, but just in case you’d like some help, here it is explicitly: this album is incredibly bittersweet, and it hits that “painfully sad” mark that only black metal seems to be capable of hitting. The riffs often slow down to a mournful, introspective roll, evoking a kind of resignation or reluctant acceptance of the nature of things. The synths gleam with a distracted or almost whimsical hope that suggests a desire for something more. Even those hateful vocals have an element of audible anguish to them. I doubt you’re going to be in tears at any point in your listen of this album, but as far I interpret these songs, the presence of grief is unquestionable. I find this album’s production to be pretty thin and flat, but the quality of the riffs serves as an effective counterweight.
There are a few shortcomings on Temples Forlorn that I’ve briefly mentioned already, but there are too many elements worthy of praise for those factors to genuinely impact my enjoyment of the record. The songwriting demonstrates both confidence and competence, and the album as a whole strikes a beautiful balance between intense and comfortable. Take heed if you like your black metal to be immersive and mildly upsetting (in a cathartic, entertaining kind of way), because Temple of Abraxas has another fantastic album to its name.
Temples Forlorn is now available digitally from the Forbidden Records Bandcamp page.