Sunday, 22 February 2015

SATURNALIA TEMPLE - To The Other (Album Review)

Cover artwork by Manuel Tinnemans & Michael Idehall.
Saturnalia Temple first caught my attention when I heard the delay-beset title track from their 'Aion of Drakon'. I've been mildly obsessed with the album ever since. It's such a unique sounding song and really the whole record is like that. It's only later you find out the band doesn't play "shows", they play "rituals" and that they take their noggin-exploding quite seriously. It only makes their efforts all the more impressive: it's one thing to stumble upon a unique and awesome sound, it's another to make a conscious effort to reach for the moon and scrape blue cheese dust off your fingertips when you're done.

Saturnalia Temple has returned with their second full-length album. The first thing I noticed is that it's not as experimental as 'Aion ...' which gives 'To The Other' a more streamlined and focused feel. Maybe it's because of the absence of the delay effect on the vocals, which has been a staple of the band. It really makes things disorienting, in a good way, and lends the music the elan of a sleazy drug trip. I didn't notice any vocal effects at all on this record, and it gives things a cleaned-up feel.

If you haven't heard Saturnalia Temple in a while you forget just how heavy they are, this album will remind you. Despite any streamlining, their distinctive blending of expansive space rock adornments with evil vibes and void-black riffs ensures they remain one of the more memorable bands from Stockholm or anywhere else on the planet. The closest to 'Aion ...' the band ventures is album closer "Void", which makes smart use of delay and repeat effects to bring the spookiness to cacophonous levels.

They don't put releases out one after another, this is just the band's second full-length album in nearly 10 years of existence and first in four years, but when they speak I listen. Saturnalia Temple isn't the kind of band to waste even a second of their record or your time, if they do something you better believe it's to achieve a particular effect. They can have such tight control over their output and still sound wild and free ... and that can be a double edged sword.

I'm not sure exactly how the album was recorded, but it doesn't feel like it was recorded live with everybody all jamming in the same room. It just doesn't have the loose, improvisational feel of earlier recordings. Main man Tommie and full-time bassist Peter are aided and abetted on 'To The Other' by American drummer Tim Call of the black metal band The Howling Wind and funeral doom band Aldebaran among others. He's a prolific recording artist in his own right having drummed on well over a half dozen records from different bands in the past couple years. He also played with Saturnalia Temple on their brief American excursion in 2013. One thing is clear, when you compare 'To The Other' to their original 'Ur' demo, you hear immediately how far this band has come.

But, it's hard to say a more polished-sounding Saturnalia Temple is a better Saturnalia Temple, and yet 'To The Other' is still a terrific album.

I'm skeptical of anything released in the first quarter or even half of the year ending up on year end lists because music people have the memory of goldfish. That's not a harsh criticism, art is inherently disposable, it's more ephemeral than clothing for example, and less utilitarian. But I'd still be surprised if this album didn't end up on more than just a couple year end lists.

'To The Other' is available to order right now at the links provided below, and will begin shipping out tomorrow, February 23.

Rating: ««««½ / 5

Order the album:



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