Death metal gets stereotyped as a one-trick pony, but plenty of bands in the genre are thoughtfully breaking the mold. In the midwest, they include Michigan death-doom outfit Temple of Void. Formed in 2013 by veterans of Detroit’s metal and hardcore scenes, the five-piece have earned accolades for their gritty, genre-bending albums—in 2020, The World That Was landed them the number-three spot on Kerrang’s list of the “50 greatest death metal bands right now.” But with their new fourth album, Summoning the Slayer (their debut for Relapse), they’ve blown even their own previous best clear out of the water. On the tails of diabolical opener “Behind the Eye,” “Deathtouch” delivers some of the most compelling gothic doom I’ve heard from any band that isn’t named Paradise Lost, making it one of my favorite songs in any genre so far this year. It’s the longest track on the album at a bit more than eight minutes, but its majestic atmospheres, provocative twists and turns, and melodic flourishes will have you replaying it over and over like a bite-size radio jam. “Engulfed” provides a searing follow-up; its ghoulish plod drags its prey kicking and screaming into a hellish abyss, but then the song changes directions, eventually setting sail on an epic voyage across a starlit sky and into the great beyond. On the second half of the record, “Hex, Curse, & Conjuration” bursts with death-metal filth, while “The Transcending Horror” borrows cues from celestial posthardcore and alternative rock. And lest you think the band have played every card in their hand, Summoning the Slayer ends with “Dissolution,” a dreamy, acoustic-guitar-driven about-face that’s more likely to summon fairies and elves than demons. With such masterful musical shape-shifters at the helm, no territory is off the map.
Temple of Void’s Summoning the Slayer is available through Bandcamp.