TEMPLE OF VOID “In Exquisite Darkness”
By Lord Randall
Michigan death/doom crew TEMPLE OF VOID have been at it for just under a decade now, hollowing out their own space in a sparsely populated US scene influenced by both early UK Peacville’s trinity (MDB, PARADISE LOST, ANATHEMA) and the member’s backgrounds, cranking out now four full-lengths in the process. Guitarist Alex Awn sat down with Lord Randall to discuss "Summoning The Slayer"…
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: When the band first began did you already have a solid idea of what you wanted the sound to be, or would you say it’s naturally developed over time?
ALEX AWN: My death metal guitar paired with Eric’s melancholy matched perfectly with Jason’s primal beat. Brent held down the low end and Mike provided the incredible death metal vocals.
WC: What part of Metro Detroit is everyone from?
AA: We are widespread, from Bloomfield Hills to Redford. Precisely no one actually lives in Detroit proper. We’re all in the suburbs.
WC: I remember the days of ALL CREATION WEPT, SUMMON, of course SUMMER DYING from Lansing, but there’s not really to my knowledge been a doom-influenced death band that’s really embraced that early Peaceville sound but at the same time made it their own. Do you think that maybe being geographically (and musically, for that matter) distanced from any sort of “scene” made it easier to forge your own identity at the start? You could almost call it the NOVEMBERS DOOM Effect…
AA: For the most part, the metal bands in Detroit are all pretty unique. But we knew there weren’t many bands flying the death-doom flag from our region and that gave us space to innovate in that realm and to really call it our own. There’s a diverse spread from black metal to doom to death to thrash to heavy metal, etc. You won’t ever find a lot of any one genre per se. But we all play shows with one another. I don’t think the bands or the lack of bands around us would have made much of a difference either way.
WC: How did the deal with Relapse come about? The label/record industry’s an entirely different beast than it was even 10 years ago, and utterly unrecognizable from 20. Both bands and labels have to be realistic about their expectations, but firm in their goals and what they want to achieve. Making sure that relationship is symbiotic and non-toxic is key, wouldn’t you agree?
AA: Relapse have been a goal for us since day one. If you were to ask us what label we wanted to be on when the demo came out, I think we all would have said, “Relapse!” So, it’s really great to finally call them home. We had a three album deal with Shadow Kingdom and when the last one was released and we went into lockdown due to COVID-19, we figured we’d spend the time writing a new album. We reached out to Relapse, I had a chat, and we were good to go. They appreciate TOV for who we are. They don’t have unrealistic expectations. They just want us to be us. They’re giving us a bigger platform and really respecting our creativity. It’s fantastic to have a whole team of enthusiastic metalheads working for you to make your band do better. We love it. Great dudes.
WC: With "The World That Was" (prophetic, much?!) coming out just when the whole Pandemic Which Shall Not Be Named kicked into high gear, and "Summoning The Slayer" being released as “they” are telling us we’ve regained some sense of “normalcy”, what was your headspace like when you compare the writing of TWTW to STS?
AA: From a guitarist’s perspective it was relatively similar. I think we our confidence was bolstered by the reception to songs like, ‘Leave The Light Behind’ That was a gamble that paid off. We needed to write something like that to be true to who we are as artists but there was a chance it wouldn’t go down well with fans. Turned out it was pretty much their favorite song. So when it came time to write the next album I think it just felt like our fans were really with us on our creative journey. "The World That Was" struck a perfect ratio of death to doom for me, and I think we carried that ratio through with "Summoning The Slayer". Most of us were listening to a lot of grunge and ‘90s stuff during the months we wrote STS and there was plenty of references to ALICE IN CHAINS, SOUNDGARDEN, PEARL JAM, and NIRVANA when we were in the practice room. But overall, I don’t think my mindset was really any different. The pandemic didn’t change my approach to writing. But it probably influenced Mike’s lyrics to a degree.
WC: How did ‘Hex, Curse & Conjuration’ come about, if you wouldn’t mind walking us through the birth of the song, musically and lyrically?
AA: Don and I would put riffs in a Dropbox folder and share them with one another. He was over my house one day and we were going through the folder and we pulled out a couple riffs that went together and started jamming on them. It came together really quickly. The only thing we spent time on was tweaking how we played the outro. It’s a fun banger. Our shortest song ever.
WC: What’s the brick-and-mortar record store scene like in Detroit Metro now? I remember the closing of Record Time, and I feel like I lost a limb that day. Hot Hits in Roseville, Dearborn Music, Flipside Records…do you think the resurgence of vinyl has maybe creating an environment where at least a niche group of people are committed to listening to albums in their entirety again? Geez, the I-Rock. If you’ve never taken a piss while looking at an ‘80s Lita Ford poster, I wonder if you’ve truly lived…
AA: It’s not like it was in its heyday, but I’d say it’s on an upswing. There are some great independent music stores fully stocked with whatever you’re looking for. UHF in Royal Oak is fantastic. And there are some real boutique stores for the highbrow collectors who want to drop a lot of coin on vintage hi-fi systems and overpriced vinyl. Vinyl has lost its collectible charm for me simply because of the cost. I have other expensive hobbies to sink my cash into. I don’t need another!
WC: On a related note, how much thought is put into the arrangement/song order and art/visual aspect for your work? It’s clearly a labor of love, but take us through the process a bit, if you would.
AA: The artwork is integral to what we do as well, just like a movie poster. On the new one we commissioned a four-foot-long piece of art for the layout. It spans from the front cover of the record to the back cover and then wraps around to the inside of the gatefold jacket. One continuous piece of art. It’s awesome. If you pick up any TOV album on 12” it definitely needs to be STS. The artwork is killer. But on top of that, we have stitched together all the songs with “cave ambience” that our sound designer created for us. So we’re taking the listener / viewer on this trip into the mouth of the cave, into the artwork, through the artwork like an Egyptian tomb, and into the music itself. It’s all connected. It almost reminds me of those comics you’d get as a kid that would come with a cassette or vinyl to play along as you read the story. We really tried to tie it all together.
WC: Plans for the remainder of the year? Are things as far as shows go opened back up now
AA: We just completed 14 shows in 14 days in Europe. So that was a labor of love. That took a lot of time and effort on our part. We’re taking a bit of a break now that we’re back stateside. We’re just sort of taking things as they come. We’re all busy. Have a lot on our plates from a personal or musical perspective. So I think we’ll just let STS come out on June 3rd and see what happens from there. Nothing’s set in stone. And I don’t feel any pressure. We’ll just roll the D20 and hope for a crit.