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Darkness is perfection! Darkness is eternal! - 100%

The Infamous Bastard, November 18th, 2013

Root is deservingly hailed as one of the original pre-second-wave black metal bands escalating the genre to broader and darker reaches and realms. The Temple in the Underworld is one of the numerous testaments of the supreme occult madness that the band has bestowed to the genre. The grandeur lies in the songwriting that builds the superlative structures of the songs; the grandeur lies in the vile atmosphere molding that ritualistic songwriting; and in the complete unhallowed expedition that this forty-four minute record takes a listener to. The depth of the ideology and the profoundness of lyricism have certainly generated a bigger impact to the musical luminosity.

The music here is something of a storyteller – forming images of the ancient underworlds and the cosmic tales, along the riffs and the ambient passages that collectively procreate this devastating beast of an album. The doom constituents of the riffing and all the dark components build the uncompromising nature of this original black/dark metal, non-submitting to the comparatively easy-accessible extreme metal albums of that era. For that matter, this album was unlike any album released in those years, although the root of the band lies in the veins of Bathory and Venom distilled with various other dark classical components. Big Boss, the band's backbone comes from blues background, and evidently experiments with some defiling traditional heavy metal elements as well. His demonic vocals furthermore infiltrate the vehement aura with their beastly presence.

Songs advance in a slow and nasty gesture – the sound conforming to no complexity boundaries. The structures are prioritized with the instrumentation usage becoming secondary. This is also where this album is different from its counterpart releases. Since I have the CD version, the ending track was more or less, an unforeseen tomfoolery for me, but nothing serious! Root has always been a behemoth of a band, and often very unacknowledged and underrated for their massive influence to extreme metal. And this album is where the impeccability lies, as one of the very few metal albums with this level of excellence.

dancing forever on fallen life - 95%

Abominatrix, February 19th, 2007

There are a few albums in the metal realm that have the power to completely immerse the listener, so that once the "play" button is pressed nothing else can be done but to allow the self to sink into the fullness of the experience and become completely enmeshed within its psychic web. When such an album has reached its conclusion, one is filled with a sense that a journey has been undertaken--perhaps an exploration of ancient history, the diseased depths of the human mind, or a trip to an ultramundane plane of existence--and the album that has just run its course is your metaphysical vehicle on this excursion. Such albums are a rare breed, because few artists possess the vision to affect conciousness in such a way, and of course one has to direct such music to a specific sort of listener, because many wouldn't have the patience or imagination to travel fully where the music would lead. Root's third studio album is a continuation of the band's steady and inexorable progress from a furious and well played black metal sound combining influences of Mercyful Fate and Celtic Frost toward an epic, grandiose and varied style of tenebrous heavy metal. The band's ideology, or at least that of principal director and magus Big Boss, has only seemed to deepen over time, and the clearly satanic ethos of the band, combining with a talent for evoking some very dark and evil atmospheres that remains strong and steadfast to this day, means that one can still call this black metal without raising too many eyebrows. Some people may try to convince you that this is a "transitional album", an experiment that is more indicative of the band stepping into uncharted waters in preparation for what is to come, rather than a definitive statement with its own singular merits. Not only will I flatly deny this, I may even go as far as to say this might be the crowning achievement of Root's long and distinguished musical output.

If the music is your vehicle on this journey into the depths of Tartaros, Big Boss is your spiritual guide. This is no tale of repentence or edification of Christian ideals through an exploration of Hell, as Dante would have it. Instead, Big Boss, with the illustrious collaboration of his bandmates, will weave living images of lost nations that exist beyond time, lonely wanderers in astral realms, mouldering, ancient temples and the cold and implacably ageless cosmic entities to which they are dedicated, and the celebratory solitude of the personification of Death itself. This is decidedly a uniform experience, not in terms of the songs sharing interchangeable patterns and structures and sounds, but in a manner that seems distinctly orchestrated and planned. Thus, while I won't say that this is a "concept album" in the truest sense, it is an opus that demands to be heard from start to finish with no interruptions and with a mind emptied and receptive to its subversive message.

There are plenty of surprises to be found here; and I could easily fall into the trap of attempting to describe every song with an excess of adjectives and many perusings of the Lexicon Tenebrarum for appropriate synonyms. As soon as the album begins, the listener is drawn to a lonely, natural landscape by the sound of rain and thunder accompanied by strains of music that should be familiar to most, the first movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata". I couldn't possibly think of a better way to introduce the proceedings, and while other bands who exerpt bits of well-known classical music for their metal albums often come across as purveyors of contrived pomposity, this piece has clearly been chosen with great care and deliberation as a symbol that almost anyone will comprehend. Such music instantly evokes near visual images or atmospheres in the minds of even the most unreceptive of people. After the temple door has ponderously creeked open, we are dropped into "Casilda's Song" with slow and regimented chords and some impressive drum fills from Evil, who makes his debut on this album. I will take this opportunity to mention the truly excellent production work that has been done here: the guitars sound sharp and crisp, and the drums are absolutely massive while being very well defined, making each cymbal hit ring with absolute clarity and the double kick attack pound with militaristic precision and depth. "Casilda's Song" also introduces Big Boss's new way of singing, a throaty and melodic roar that is not quite the distinctive baritone of future releases but which still possesses a mage-like wisdom and authority. This song is, to my intense delight, lyrically inspired by the work of the American author Robert W> Chambers, who wrote a book of loosely connected short stories in 1895 called "The King in Yellow" (before he turned to more profitable pursuits in romantic fiction) that dealt with a play whose nebulous and mysterious subversive power drove men to insanity. The lyrics to this song are taken straight from the first act of this hypothetical play, and form the text of a poem dedicated to the lost city of Carcosa, from whose cursed butresses the morose king gazes into a night sky filled with the light of alien suns and the wheeling shapes of strange satelites. There's some exquisite interplay between the two guitarists here, though no solos or real lead parts, and the enchanting vocals really carry the piece through its extraterrestrial landscape. The title track follows, and is altogether heavier and more tenebrous with its rumbling doom and harsher vocal attack. Toward its end we hear a preparatory guitar squeal, and with a proverbial bang Root shows us its fiery propensity for speed and aggression, something we don't get much of on this album but whose jagged, forceful riffing style was prominent on "Hell Symphony". Suddenly Big Boss is projecting a malevolent and rabid growl from somewhere deep in his chest, and the band is plowing ahead like a tank with the flame-shrouded head of a hellhound. Just as suddenly, everything stops, and as if to taunt us, we hear the winding of a clockwork toy and a mournful tune from what sounds like a child's music box that's been called to life in the benighted bowels of some time-lost and dessicated structure. Who's listening? Who, indeed.

"Aposiopesis" is a slow, majestic piece that bares a shocking resemblence to something a band like Alice in Chains might have done if they were fascinated by the occult and the deep cosmic mysteries. I enjoy Alice in Chains on occasion so this doesn't faze me, but I could imagine what some fans of Root's past might have thought upon hearing this for the first time. This is actually an important song for Root and Big Boss because it introduces the concept of Kärgeräs, which seems like Big Boss's own version of Carcosa, a cursed nation created and destroyed by the demigod Equirhodont, who dreamed of a perfect race to rival the divine and came dangerously close to achieving his goal. The following Root album, which interestingly contains the heaviest influence from 90s "alternative" rock of all of the band's discography, would focus entirely on the fates and aspirations of this lost race, and the story would be continued even further with Big Boss's newer band Equirhodont.

Wandering further along our course, we find a simple ambient piece created with a single synth patch and probably improvised, to the accompaniment of the sound of a dust-stirring wind. For me, this very minimal and beautiful piece conjures an image of a wizzened, crag-faced sage sitting in the mouth of a cave atop a wind-swept peak, or perhaps wandering by night through some lonely desert plane. Later we come to "The Wall", a monstrosity that is absolutely packed with colossal riffs that shift seamlessly atop a barrage of commanding drum-work. This piece shows off how well the two guitarists work with each other, employing full-bodied chords and a really phenomenal use of rare and dissonant intervals like minor seconds to produce a morbidly heavy effect. "The Message" has an anthemic and powerful feel and has got to be a live favourite. It's probably the catchiest song on the album, while still remaining steeped in occultic darkness and Root's thundering atmosphere. "The Old Ones" is one of the more effective tributes to the archetypical elder race, those avatars which H. P. Lovecraft so thoroughly and fearfully depicted in his weird tales.

Another notable piece here is "My Name", played entirely on acoustic (twelve string?) guitars, and while it is a straightforward piece of music for this band and features Big Boss at his most subdued, its beauty cannot be denied, even with the Boss's bizarre butchering of the english language (when I play on flute made from your shinin' bone?) taken into account. The narrator here is Death itself, and the lyrics are quite interesting as they contrast the personification of that which comes to all things and which alone cannot die, with the ways of the ephemeral man. Why should Death, in his eternal realm, be fettered as a subject of reason, logic or any sort of empathy, when these human traits are mostly just airs and philosophically unattainable goals that everyone fails to live up to? Since it is the province of man to ultimately strive for something he can never reach, Death tells us, he is doomed to forever be a miserable and lowly creature, whereas Death is content and full of vibrancy simply because he is what he is and does what he has done, without surcease, irrepresible and Pan-like in his celebratory fervour.

I mentioned the planned, story-like nature of the whole album, and while I wasn't in any way misleading with that comment, there is a strange exception here, and that is the final track, oddly entitled "Freebee", which seems like a bit of a humorous excursion, though with Root sometimes it is hard to tell and they do have a habit of ending their albums in a strange or even jarring fashion. What we have here is some goofy brassy keyboard ditty, some chattering helium-dwarf vocals and a clattering drum solo accompanied by paroxysms of laughter from Big Boss, which then accelerates into a hammering assault of frenetic blastbeats (double kick blast, even) and then stops without ceremony or flair, as if they'd just shut off a tape. I'm actually curious about whether the original versions of this album did not contain this track and whether it's one of the bonus tracks on the re-release. What makes me think this might be the case is the fact that when the first "bonus" song starts, the blasting drums seem identical to those which ended "Freebee" and the production also seems identical. The two tracks listed as bonus material are excellent rerecordings of old demo songs from the late 80s and are naturally less experimental fair than the album proper. They are filled with fiery riffs in that distinctive, fast as hell style of guitar playing with odd "tails" at the end of each phrase that Root utilises in their speedier numbers, and either a raspy, raven-throated vocal attack or a sort of growl/rumble that doesn't sound like anyone else and needs to be heard to be truly comprehended. As they are not part of the Temple experience, one should probably listen to them in a separate listening session.

In writing this I've done what I swore to myself I wouldn't do and spoken at length about nearly every song. Only an album that maintains a place of pride in my metal collection would warrant such treatment, and indeed "The Temple in the Underworld" is a work I'd probably place in my top ten most revered albums. It is an album which, by virtue of its power to inexorably draw one into a realm of mouldering vaults, cyclopean towers and stirring gods to whom the passing of the aeons has been only the faintest trickle in the hourglass, deserves its vaunted position as one of the most complete and potent statements in the genre. Whether you enjoy black metal, doom or any sort of dark heavy metal, you owe it to yourself to give this at least a listen.

At last I recognize what I always wanted
And I see there is no return
I become a little part of the Sign on the wall
And dwindle in the Underworld Temple ...