Released: 2013, Agonia Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
In fifteen years of creating music Temple of Baal have evolved from a sound which they characterize as “primitive black/thrash”, which permeated their early demos and splits, to a brutal black/death metal sound which is encapsulated in their latest release Verses of Fire. The album is an hour of uncompromising aggression, and as is typical for this force of nature, conjures up the very darkest and harrowing of atmospheres.
‘το αστέρι 418’ is a punishing opener lasting nearly eight minutes. The sound retains the air of classic black metal but through the use of tube amps the band has managed to produce something relatively clean and crisp. Natural drums too allow Skvm to really demonstrate his furious power; during the opening few minutes he is a relentless drumming machine. The mid-song breakdown is reminiscent of the dark turn which Soulfly took on the recent Enslaved album, and the ultra-clean guitar solo against the turbulent tempest of violent black metal backing music is nothing short of breathtaking. A thrashy change in tempo rounds off a pretty explosive song and whets the appetite for what is to follow.
A short, fast number follows in ‘Bloodangel’. Once again Skvm is impressive on the drums, utilizing unbelievably quick blast beats. Meanwhile Amduscias is growlingly powerful in his vocal delivery, and the song on the whole is a forceful blend of all of the finer qualities of the thrash, black and death metal extremes. ‘Arcana Silentium’ starts off with a lone guitar, complete with just the right amount of reverb so as to make it sound truly epic, like a wolf howling in the mountains. When the rest of the band joins in the music retains a slower pace before diving straight back into the fire and fury of the previous two tracks. Rhythmically as powerful as early Slayer and atmospheric as modern Testament, yet keeping the unique darkness that defines Temple of Baal’s sound, this powerful number is garnished with some rare clean vocal cries and a slice of dark yet smoothly spoken French lyrics.
‘The 10th Aethyr’ starts out much like the previous song in building slowly during the first few moments to a more frenetic pace, but this one manages to create a fairly different sound through some clever guitar work, including a lengthy clean solo to round the song off. Amduscias sounds much more powerful in this one for some reason, like Till Lindemann with a frog in the throat, and his clear almost spoken rallying cries towards the end are a delight. ‘Gates of Death’ at just over four minutes is another short one by this album’s standards. Just as in ‘Bloodangel’, the drumming is superbly fast-paced, and this is on the whole much more of a thrash song, replete with riffs of headbanging awesomeness and catchy vocal hooks.
‘Gnosis of Fire’ returns us to the lengthy tracks at nearly seven minutes. The vocals match the rhythm of the music very well but the mid-song breakdown could perhaps have been handled a little better. It sounded like the song was coming to an end and it took just a little too long for the music to get going again. ‘Golden Wings of Azazel’ is another short thrashy number with more fast-paced drumming and powerfully growled vocals. The guitar solos hark back to the late Jeff Hanneman, and the high-pitched wail towards the end reminds me quite strongly of the opening to ‘Angel of Death’. ‘Lord of the Raging Seas’ is similarly frenetic, with a somewhat chugging rhythm. Bassist Arkdaemon’s backing vocals combine beautifully with those of Amduscias to create a real wall of noise.
‘Serpens Luminis’ starts out explosively and only gets more forceful as the song goes on, before once again things slow down and a tempo shift occurs. This is by now the established pattern of this album, but the breakdown in this one is a much slower and more methodical one. The album concludes with the ten minute long ‘Walls of Fire’, and after the lengthy tracks which preceded it one cannot help but wonder if this will be a fitting denouement or if the band have overstretched themselves. During the minute and a half intro it was nice to hear some prominent bass from Arkdaemon, and once the song got going into a frenetic pace it did become quite lively and atmospheric. I like how at around six minutes in the band teased the kind of long breakdown which permeates the rest of the album but instead dove right back into the quick pace and unleashed a sweet guitar solo. On the whole this was a solid way to bring the record to a close.
I really enjoyed the dark ambience of this album. Thought at times it felt just a little too long, particularly during ‘Gnosis of Fire’, I would say that this is a definite highlight of the year’s extreme metal releases and that if what you are after is a journey into the blackest realms of the human psyche then this is definitely an album to check out.
Review by Michael Dodd