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A bit uneven but satisfyingly deep rumbling doom - 85%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, May 27th, 2013

Not a bad demo at all though "UR" borrows heavily from the early Electric Wizard "Come My Fanatics ..." / "Dopethrone" period, is my verdict here. Saturnalia Temple's first release locks into a template that, no matter how many times or how many bands from across the world use it, still has plenty to offer if the bands concerned bring imagination, creativity, a consistent level of musicianship and an original idea or two that test that template's capacity for flexibility. On the first couple of hearings, I was quite impressed with the group's sound, the way the songs are arranged to extract maximum atmosphere and the amount of drama and theatricality the musicians have extracted without going overboard. Now for the dissection!

First track "Enter the Temple of Saturn" is satisfyingly deep, rumbling and cavernously atmospheric as befits a piece dedicated to that mysterious and austere god the progenitor of Jupiter and all his offspring. Pity it's only intended as an introduction to the recording as there are some weighty subterranean drone passages that'd do a Sunn0))) album proud. By comparison much of the rest of the album seems a series of footnotes. By themselves though, they have a good deep sound and a gritty (though not very gritty) texture. There's just enough repetition of riffs and variation of them to keep the attention level up. "Dreaming out of Death" is suitably retro-Seventies doom metal though a little deeper and slower for contemporary tastes and the treated chanting vocals sound very distant; likewise "Mount Meru is tall" is also retro to the point of embarrassment with its almost campy giant-cane-toad vocals and a suggestion of a debauched pagan fertility ritual on a far tropical isle. The instrumental climax is an acid-burning lead guitar stunner: chords and riffs literally bleed out of the speakers and send radioactive red and orange rays out to strip wallpaper and paint off walls.

The title piece is much more to my liking, at first anyway: huge bass-heavy moraines encroaching steadily but relentless across the sonic landscape, crushing all in their paths while a rock spirit crunches out sparse lyrics. The riffs rumble slowly and repeatedly and the melody is more like slowly flowing or rippling waves of thick mud than anything musical. As the track progresses though, not a great deal happens and the most notable thing is the interplay of two lots of vocals, one deep and crunchy, the other quite fragile. The final track is a return to retro-doom form with melodic pure-toned lead guitar and ethereal distant treated vocals but with some influence from the preceding title track in its looping subterranean bass rumble rhythm.

A very good release if not perfect: the frail and rather workman-like vocals need some work so they can match the music in its awesome power and the musicians should not be afraid to explore the range and textures, in the manner of intrepid speleologists, of those doom riffs. The sound and rhythms that ST have achieved here are capable of carrying away entire sets of albums and don't need that much light lead guitar work over them: if anything, sometimes the melodic aspects are unwelcome annoying competition, like mosquitoes up against a bull elephant.

It's a pity that the title track appears to lose itself and go around in circles in a way that suggests ST might have been a bit over their heads in more experimental territory away from the familiar melodic retro-doom arena but it's something they can revisit at a later date and improve on. I'd rather listen to a recording where the musicians have tried something and bitten off more than they can chew but push on with the piece valiantly than to a release where everything is perfect but shows no evidence of risk-taking and adventurism.

Drown in the Doom! - 90%

caspian, February 26th, 2008

Saturnalia Temple are a rather excellent band that could best be described as 'Electric Wizard covering Electric Wizard', or something along those lines. Basically get an Electric Wizard album, make it twice as slow and then add huge amounts on unnecessary bass frequencies, and you've got this band.

I'm probably the only person who actually thinks that that's a good idea, but damn, this is a great formula and these guys execute it really well. Everything crawls along at a really slow pace, the huge (HUGE) guitars moving along like a huge, bassy glacier, the drums slowly creeping along, and everything is just huge and slow, just suffocating you with a super thick occult atmosphere until your brain just goes completely numb. The centerpiece of the album ('Ur', in case you didn't know) is probably the best example, with some seriously merciless riff repetition followed by some lame-but-sparse vocals, with the end result being a ridiculously hypnotic vibe that Sunn O))) would kill for.

It's a pretty simple formula, really, but it's just been executed almost flawlessly. Admittedly the vocals are pretty crap- the distorted w/echo vocals in particular are obnoxious and almost completely unnecessary- but everything else is done great, even the messy/out of time solos fit the vibe perfectly (Mount Meru is Tall being a good example). The sheer repetitiveness of the riffs verges on the sadistic- this is an album for only the most sedated doom heads- but the atmosphere is delivered flawlessly. It's a compliment to this band that it's pretty much impossible for me to write this review- listening to this music makes my brain completely numb, and it's hard not to drool everywhere in a state of hypnotised, catatonic bliss- which I guess is a good line for me to end this review on.