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Bit of a disappointment this one, possibly suffering from unrealistic expectations. I don't think you can blame me for having them, though- Ur was a masterpiece that remains one of the darkest, deepest stoner doom albums(EPs/demos, whatever) out there- a long, strange and super dense beast with one of the best guitar tones this side of Conan. Simplistic, ridiculously fuzzy riffs rolling out from time immortal and generating an impossibly thick atmosphere- it's what Saturnalia Temple have developed before, and it's what I expected them to bring in this time, more or less.
And they almost do it. This isn't a bad album y'know, it's just that ST have taken what they're best at and reduced the amount of it, all while they've gotten what they were never any good at and included more of it. I'm not expecting them to bake exactly the same cake twice. But if you reduce the amount of chocolate and triple the amount of flour and add ten times the amount of salt in a recipe it's not going to taste as good, and it should get pointed out.
The ever flowing black streams of fuzz are still here, but the vocals- which at your most charitable you could describe as "hypnotic" or "occult" (or otherwise "shite, with way too much reverb and echo added in") are here in pretty large doses, and they really aren't that good. Ur's title track and Mt Meru is Tall from that same album derived much of their strength from the vast, unpopulated, alien and totally archaic stretches of landscape they evoked, whereas here, a drunken swede stumbles over "black magic metal rule the land" or something a few hundred times. The vibe gets killed and stays killed throughout- the blame really lies entirely on the piss-poor vocals, and it's a damn shame.
Some of the ideas here are quiet good- the hypnotic delay jam of the title track would be awesome if it was without vocals. Ancient Sorceries opens with two back to back massive riffs and an utterly dismal (in a good sense!) vibe- this huge Hellhammer by-way-of-Electric-Wizard thing that is one of the most powerful, dank and desolate riffs ever.
But then the vocals kick back in. Or those acid-fried psych leads come out of nowhere (the last song), or some heavily wah-inflected guitars come in. ST have some excellent ideas throughout this but they're rarely given time to properly flower and develop before something comes in at ruins them- the vocals, generally; poor, barely in tune and extremely uncreative. Oh well. Give this one a miss.
It’s official, the occult has made a glorious return in metal music, with more and more bands basing their sound on 70s heavy rock and their image on various metaphysical aspects. And with SATURNALIA TEMPLE’s new effort, entitled “Aion Of Drakon”, things get serious. After the astonishing “UR” demo back in 2007, the self-titled EP and their participation in “On The Powers Of The Sphinx” split release, the Swedes had to overcome themselves and, oh Lord they did it!
While none of their elements is really new, the mixture of their influences is nothing less than magic. Inside the pot, LSD boils in low heat and ingredients are gradually added. First, some of 70s heaviest sounds –BLACK SABBATH, PENTAGRAM, ATOMIC ROOSTER. NWOBHM filtered through CELTIC FROST morbidity. Kraut rock psychedelia. Even glimpses at MY DYING BRIDE (without the mourning, dramatic tone) and early DARKTHRONE (before they went blackmetal) are present here. In a brilliant, solid outcome, a unique blend is created. This is musical ritual, which unfolds with every listening session and each of the five songs grows its own personality, as more and more aspects are revealed behind the wall the ultra-slow, ultra-fuzzy guitars build.
This brings us to sound production, where an amazing work has been done. If I were to analyze “Aion Of Drakon” into layers, the first one would definitely be the riffing. Slow, heavy, lo-fi, it reaches the point of drone at moments and creates the perfect entrance to the Temple of Saturn. Then come the various psychedelic effects and the solos that let the lengthy tracks breathe. There’s even an absolutely amazing twin lead somewhere in the middle of the closing track “Fall”. And finally, the haunting, laudatory vocals emerge. Scattered around the record and beautifully enhanced with delay and echo, they are sort of an invocation of magic powers and witchcrafts long forgotten.
In the awakened and growing scene of the occult doom metal, SATURNALIA TEMPLE deserve to be leaders of the new era. The shamans of some lost wisdom. No retro music here, only a ritual. An enchantment. Follow their aura, enter the “Aion Of Drakon” and embrace its ancient sorceries…
originally written for the:
I first heard the down-tuned lysergic heaviness of Saturnalia Temple when they released their incredibly diabolical EP back in 2009 so this has been a hellish process waiting for this full-length album to emerge out-of-the-darkness. For those who have never heard the band, they have been described as 'like Kyuss at 16 rpm' and 'Black Sabbath dipped in peyote' and this still rings true. The sound of the band is influenced by Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Celtic Frost, Electric Wizard and the late 60's proto-metal sounds of bands like Atomic Rooster. But it is put in a melting pot and stirred up with ingredients as diverse as N.W.O.B.H.M and classic black-metal.
The sound of the band is stoner-doom and psychedelic but it is blackened with an intense occult-rock vibe. Nothing new with all this of course but few bands can match the hypnotic intensity of Saturnalia Temple.
Here is what is on the menu: Thick bass lines, fuzzy wah-wah guitars, druggy effected vocals, and sinister occult atmospheres that is all backed up with serious stoner grooves. The Black Sabbath influence really shines on this album but mostly it is in the walking bass-lines and while many bands mirror Tony Iommi in the riffing department, few capture Geezer Butler's wonderfully infectious bass playing techniques but Saturnalia Temple nail it on 'Aion of Drakon.
The 6 songs on this album are unique in the way that they don't stray too much from the selected style but they still each track has its own personality and feel. It is also important to mention that from the album opener 'God Is Two' to the closing 'Fall' there isn't a moment of weakness. The album is so strong and consistently good that I can't find a single stand-out track, the entire album is a standout, for all of its 49 minutes.
The band swing with slow-motion stoner grooves that ooze from the psychedelic to the immensely doomy and it is delivered through a lo-fi kind of production that somehow sounds huge at the same time. The production on this album is one of the album's strengths, everything is layered beautifully from the sometimes bizarre sound-effects to the pulsating riffing that is saturated in hypnotic fuzz. At times the band verges on drone only to pull out of it at just the right time before anything becomes remotely repetitive. At other times, the band becomes drowned in a swirling, psychedelic vibe but it is mostly heavy-armed grooves that are irresistibly mesmerizing. It is also hard not to be impressed by some of the lead-work too especially in the album-closing Fall where the twin-leads are surprisingly classy and polished. All of this is topped off with haunting vocals that are soaked in effects giving the album a washed-out, laid back kind of atmosphere.
Even when the songs take a more straight forward direction, there is always something to make this far from predictable whether it be a strange vocal effect, a twist to the riffing or just odd noises that appear out-of-nowhere. At times I am sure I hear flute on this for example. What really makes me respect and appreciate Saturnalia Temple's Aion Of Drakon is the way they use retro-influence and yet don't sound retro at all. This is doom for the future while keeping the doom-metal traditions firmly intact. This is ritualistic and mesmerizing and is almost perfect, without a doubt top 10 material for 2011.....9.5/10
Saturnalia Temple's demos were pretty cool, like a more abstract and intense take on Electric Wizard. I didn't listen that carefully, but I liked the sound. I dug the band's nods to black metal, and was intrigued by their connections to the anti-cosmic mysticism of the Dragon Rouge. So I was looking forward to the full length, which was released at the end of April.
Huge disappointment. This basically sounds like a parody of doom metal. The album begins with a retro-occult intro that's actually pretty cool, but then slides into one of the weakest, most annoying doom riffs I've ever heard. It repeats like 8 or 16 times before they finally drop another, but that one's basically a holding pattern before we go back to the really uncool main riff. When the vocals finally enter around 2:30, the new riff is just as embarrassing. It actually manages to be a bit more intense and sinister, but it's a shameful cliche. The reverb-y vocals are cool, I guess? Not really though. The third track begins with a kind of cool verbed out intro riff that quickly becomes tiresome once you realize that it IS the main riff. At around the 4:20 mark, I was anxiously checking to see how much longer the song would last. Sadly, another 7 minutes. Doomed, indeed.
The first good riff, a bit like a 70s interpretation of Hellhammer, comes some 1:50 into the fourth track, by which point we are just over the halfway point of the album. It doesn't lead to any overall improvement. I listened to the rest of the track, and then cut my losses.
Aion of Drakon will defy any attempt to headbang whatsoever. The riffs sound like another band's filler, left on the cutting room floor and scooped up by a band of hooded occultists desperate for raw material. And there's nothing interesting going on rhythmically. In fact, the drums might as well not be there. It seems as if Saturnalia Temple were going for "numbing and hypnotic," but they failed. And they forgot that this kind of doom is already minimal as fuck... The best bands, like Electric Wizard, make this stripped-down sound work by writing really long, rhythmically interesting melodic lines.
No matter how much weed you smoke, you will not enjoy this album.
(Originally written for Trial By Ordeal, www.trialbyordeal666.blogspot.com)