Temple of the Maggot (interviewed here a year ago) is a duo from Mongolia that plays very violent black metal with an industrial touch. This is their debut album, and prior to this they've released nothing, not even a single demo.
This album has received quite some praise already. So what's it like, and what makes it so noteworthy? The music consists of real harsh but still clear enough, cold and somewhat more high-pitched than usual guitars executing some violent riffs that have quite some Death Metal-touch in them. They're not too simplistic and just plain sound good, and there's a good amount of changes and variation in them to stay interesting. They're not too fast despite the tracks usually being well over mid-tempo, they moreso progress naturally and at their own pace. There's usually no bass guitar present, aside of a few synth-made bass-like poundings used here and there as a spice. The drums are really good, they support the songs really well, give them a lot of extra speed and aggression while sounding interesting on their without standing out too much. The drums are partially programmed, but this fits in well to the cold atmosphere and the programming is not lowsy at all, just a few of the bass drum blasts are too fast.
The vocals are a chapter of their own. They're some high shrieks and screams that sound very violent and unique. I'm not sure how they were made or recorded, but at least they're quite distorted which makes them sound more harsh and penetrating. I can surely believe that these vocals might make some people resent the band. All this is topped with some screaming- and torture-samples, and some synths are used to deepen the songs' moods and coldness, to "fill in" for the absence of bass guitar and to give them more mass and listening value. The synths and samples are most effectively used as mid-parts in some of the songs to give a fitting pause from the aggression, and in the beginning of some tracks to create a high opening mood. None of this is overused, luckily, so you don't get bored of these effects.
If you want a good image of the atmosphere, check out the song titles. Cold, industrial-esque but far from sterile, screeching, hateful and brutal, with an occasional touch from horror. TotM most likely hates you. I rarely heard what the lyrics were about, but the songs deliver their message without words, too: the band says that they draw their influence from human suffering and other violent acts, and, despite how lame or used these themes might sound to you, the band has managed to transform hatred, violence, misanthropy and sadism into a very fitting aural form. The album lenght has been kept fittingly short so that the beating doesn't get dull.
This album has been waiting a review from me from quite some time, because I found it hard to get a grasp of it. It was evident that the music is of very good quality, but at least I found the band's output too unique and multi-faceted for me to describe it well. The songs vary from in-your-face-poundings, for example the album's two very catchy openers, to some even slow-paced and more atmospheric and devilish-sounding songs and song-parts. A lot of weight is also given to the atmospheric elements overall, the synths and samples work great in deepening and building up the songs' mood. For example the tortured female screams in "Sacrifice in the Jungle" and the last track really get your attention due to them having a lot of empty air around them. They sound powerful, even scary.
The thing that maybe most affects this album being so difficult to grasp is it's rich mixing. All the elements are in full balance, they don't take room away from each other. The guitars don't run the album, neither the vocals or the drums. It's the whole with all the spices and elements. This is something that is heard all too rarely.
The release is wholly black & white, simplistic but effective. The booklet doesn't offer any lyrics, which is a minus in my books, but there are brief and fittingly angry explanations about the band's ideology and influences, the basic release info and a peculiar little warning for "depressed pathetic assholes" to stay away from the album. The layout, the stylish closeup band picture, and the pictures of executions and corpses behind the CD appeal to me with their bare effectiveness and fitting style. Their distant and even cold nature fit in well to the songs' themes and attitude, and keep the band from becoming too "warm" to the listener. The front cover artwork is rather dull to my eyes, and reusing it in the back doesn't get any points from me. It's a flaw in the otherwise well thought-out whole.
After all this, how to sum it up? If you want something fresh but still cold and hateful from your Black Metal, head to this temple. The band has managed to conjure up something of their own, and of great quality too, and for that I respect them. Now they only have to focus on sharpening their output to a greater effect. They have made a well-built soundscape from many layers of sound, but it makes the songs slightly lack in violence that they would otherwise be capable of. The whole could also be slightly more well flowing, for example the transition from song one to song two is pretty lame, and it is quite noteworthy in that early point of the album. Other than that, I can only hope that the band will keep the quality high in the future, too.