Cave dwellers Temple of Void finally return from the inky abyss on new album, Summoning the Slayer. The Michigan-based quintet—featuring Alex Awn (guitars), Don Durr (guitars), Mike Erdody (vocals), Jason Pearce (drums), and Brent Satterly (bass)—hunkered down during the last two years, expanding upon their brand of fusty, artfully brutish death-doom with equal parts process and imagination. The outcome is an album that feels massive yet sepulchral, exploratory yet distinguishable—as if crafted deep below and inspired by all the things (mentally and physically) that come with their subterranean endeavor. Summoning the Slayer creepily evolves Temple of Void.
“There’s definitely a strong mythic connection and continuity,” reveals Alex Awn. “Sonically, Summoning the Slayer was written on the heels of The World That Was, so I expect it’s probably the closest pairing of albums. The World That Was struck a perfect balance [between doom and death] and Summoning the Slayer strikes a similar balance but maybe plays up that ‘unknown’ axis just a little bit more. At first, I was afraid there wasn’t enough death on the album, but as we continued writing it, we ensured that our death side was still firmly represented. It’s similar to The World That Was, but it’s definitely an evolution. It’s more immersive.”
Temple of Void was formed in Detroit in 2013. Since then, they’ve released three full-length albums—Of Terror and the Supernatural (2014), Lords of Death (2017), The World That Was (2020)—and numerous splits with deathly accomplices Revel in Flesh, Nucleus, Fetid Zombie, and Ectoplasma. The outfit also contributed to Decibel Magazine’s flexi disc series with the exclusive track “Ravenous Eyes in the Distance,” while separately having The World That Was championed as “one of the most anticipated death metal albums of the year.” British weekly magazine Kerrang! offered Temple of Void another pillar of support for The World That Was saying, “A haunting masterpiece of modern death metal.” Certainly, the Michiganders are poised for more commendations with Summoning the Slayer.
“We are by nature a proud ‘death-doom band,’” Awn says. “We fly that flag proudly. And as such, when we look at each body of work, it must overall include ample elements of death and doom. However, there’s a third axis that we plot our music by, and that’s essentially ‘the unknown’ or the ‘whatever the fuck else we want to throw into the mix.’ So yes, there’s plenty of American-style, old-school death on the X-axis, and there’s plenty of Euro-style doom on the Y-axis, but the Z-axis contains elements of shoegaze, grunge, black metal, dream pop, goth, ‘90s alternative, krautrock—you name it!”
The songwriting sessions for Summoning the Slayer commenced and were completed during the global pandemic. While the group funneled long-time influences into their new oeuvre, the Z-axis of the “unknown” significantly contributed to tracks like “Deathtouch,” “Hex Curse,” and “The Transcending Horror.” Whether it was heavy sessions with Seattle grunge greats or greater collaboration with synth player Omar Jon Ajluni and sound designer Meredith Davidson, Summoning the Slayer—between its hulking columns of heavy and desolation—is diverse without sacrificing Temple of Void’s trademark. The album’s capper, “Dissolution,” is one example of stretching out with its ‘70s rock/singer-songwriter motifs à la The Moody Blues and Nick Drake.
“The actual sessions were the same process we’ve employed since 2013,” says Awn. “The guitarists write separately and throw our riffs into a Dropbox folder. Then, the two of us get together and start connecting the dots. Once we have a few riffs strung together, we bring them to practice and share them with the band. At that point, the whole band starts working on the arrangement, and we refine it until it’s good to go. We always start with guitar riffs and always collaborate on arrangements. No one has ever brought a whole song to practice and said, ‘Here’s a song, play it.’ Everyone’s fingerprints are on everything we write.”
For lyrics, vocalist Mike Erdody left his horror inspiration—Lovecraft, the Halloween series, Dead & Buried—for more salient topics of psychology and fear. The World That Was opened the lyrical doors, but it’s tracks like “Behind the Eye,” “Engulfed,” “A Sequence of Rot,” and “Deathtouch,” where Erdody purposefully moves it all forward. But Summoning the Slayer goes even deeper conceptually. The cover art by illustrator Ola Larsson (Sulphur Aeon, Seance) directly connects to the previous cover work by artist Adam Burke (Spirit Adrift, Unto Others). Meanwhile, the songs thematically reinterpret Dante Alighieri’s classic Inferno. According to Erdody, the down escalator (in behavioral patterns and thinking rooted in ego and shame) is overlaid on top of the circles of metaphorical Hell. The songs on Summoning the Slayer are therefore related, each ego-notion submitting to the other.
“There is a definite thematic link between songs on the album,” Erdody says. “‘Behind the Eye’ begins the album focusing on how maladaptive thinking and behavior rooted in negative experiences breed apathy and allows human beings to justify doing horrific things to each other in search of status, power, and wealth. The lyrics use multiple perspectives to address how humans go through great levels of cognitive dissonance to validate their idealizations, cope with loss, or shift blame from themselves. Others internalize that blame and shut down, pull inward, or find their escape in the bottom of a glass or the chase of a dragon. Some people succumb to their own pettiness and, in their need for vindication, only end up losing a huge part of themselves, just like those who perpetually allow themselves to be controlled by fear and consequence often lose themselves similarly. There’s a lot of interesting parallels to this album.”
Between jobs in teaching, the medical field, firefighting, and UX design, Temple of Void visited producer Arthur Rizk (Cavalera Conspiracy, Sacred Reich) at Redwood Studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to track Summoning the Slayer. The team spent a week recording while the rest of the production phase extended much further out, with Rizk mixing and mastering. They achieved a particularly intense yet organic sound, where melancholy leads, burly riffs, moody bass, and rumbling vocals bounce off subterrestrial walls, penetrating receptive minds.
“We flew out to Philly and recorded with Arthur for a week,” say Awn. “He’s a chill dude and really gets along with our vibe. There are no stories of debauchery or anything. We’d go to Whole Foods, get some healthy grub, make dinner, and then Mike [Erdody] would make us watch hours of terrible music videos on YouTube. Then, we’d get up and go to the studio all day and repeat. We’re boring. But we were there to make an album, not to fuck around. We had a good time.”
Summoning the Slayer culminates Temple of Void’s labyrinthine death-doom metal journey. It’s taken many years to get here. With tracks like “Deathtouch,” “Hex Curse,” and “The Transcending Horror,” there’s no stopping Temple of Void now. Indeed, to quote Warhammer 40k’s 4th Edition Rulebook: “As the mind to the body so the soul to the spirit, as death to the mortal man so failure to the immortal, such as the price of all ambition.” Onward march, fellow Voiders!