SPIRE (AUS) – Temple of Khronos, 2021 🇬🇧
Musical cliches are useful. Not always trustworthy, but they have the inevitable residue of truth that has contributed to their creation. If a band is Swedish and plays death metal, at first glance you can´t help but think that they must use the Boss Heavy Metal HM2 pedal. If instead of thinking about origin we try to find out the genre or style through band names, then fun multiplies, since this factor tends to be quite accurate. As humans, we like to move within known territories knowing beforehand what we are going to find behind the door, since we despise chaos, and we always try to establish some order; it brings us relief.
This does not mean that at certain occasions a dislocation cannot be positive. In this particular case, this band comes from Australia and it’s labeled as a black metal/ ambient outfit, from which one would expect a very dirty sound, extremely gloomy ambient parts. A one-man project or with very few members, and, if possible, that one of these has ties to the local National Socialist scene. This cliché was the one that encouraged me to review SPIRE‘s second LP. But since the album concept is related to time and it’s not about astral psychic vamphyres, it made me realize that the Brisbane duo had nothing to do with their compatriots.
Temple of Khronos is a more-than-pleasant displacement that looks towards modern Poland or Iceland. That means plenty of mid-paced songs, shrouded on ambient to achieve a certain amount of darkness. Of course, here is enough originality to not consider this plagiarism but just admiration.
I firmly believe that I’m not mistaken when I consider that SPIRE shows its best with their slowness, which allows them to create that almost ritualistic atmosphere, although not in the way one associates with «ritual». The classic male deep choirs are joined by Tibetan guttural chants, as heard in the interlude «Antithesis«, on «Hymn IV – Puissant» or «Hymn V – Khronos«. Those may sound as insignificant details, but they contribute, more than it seems, to change the perspective of their music, because what could become overwhelming and oppressing ends up being relaxing.
While the rhythmic base happens to be relentless, the lead guitar sounds cleaner, taking care of the melodies. This contrast game changes something potentially monotonous into something bearable and swaddling. Not only that, vocal duties on the album are the most uncommon element. Except perhaps that DSBM register on «Hymn III – Harbringer» and another few moments that sound closer to death metal, many vocals throughout Temple of Khronos are clean and recited, bringing similarities with Victonik from DODHEIMSGARD. Even so, we must not forget that the roots are buried in black metal, and blast beasts and other fast sections, although scattered, are still here. They are mostly present on the first part of the album (before the interlude), although they are not the brightest sections (not because of their technical execution but because they do not offer anything special); they are means to the end, not the end itself.
Temple of Khronos is far from being a risky or suicidal proposal, but it is still nowhere near that classical black metal sounding. It works like clockwork in that strange midpoint, cramped yet accessible, neither classic or modern.