ErebusGreat album cover. Let’s get that out of the way now – a brooding, immense painting of a cavernous underground temple with only a few thin shafts of light penetrating the murk, it’s a hark back to the days of ‘classic’ album artwork and really sets the tone for a record of blackened, churning unpleasantness. Thankfully, the Australian four-piece are no slouches when it comes to the musical side of things either and ‘Temple Under Hell’ is an invigoratingly hellish dark journey.

It’s an ambitious move for the band to open the record with the 10-minute ‘Sorathick Pentecost’ but it’s a gamble that pays off. The song starts slowly, dwelling on a doleful, lurching refrain before exploding into violence with a galloping blast, the gargling roar of enigmatically-monikered vocalist ‘N’ drenching the song with convincing venom.

From then on, the assault doesn’t really let up. Erebus Enthroned’s style is firmly rooted in traditional ‘meaty’ black metal with the occasional Swedish touch. The production is great and the dense, echoey sound brings to mind the work of Kriegsmachine and Mgla, most noticeable the relentless drive of ‘Trisagion’ and the more Norwegian-tinged ‘Crucible of Victory’– but there are some noticeable diversions. That aforementioned Swedish influence crops up meanwhile on the title track, the twisting lead motifs bringing the overlooked Setherial to mind on a few occasions.

Some ideas do overplay themselves. N’s vocals are certainly a highlight and towards the end of ‘Black Sword’ he launches into some effective droning clean vocals which are very much of the Attila (Mayhem frontman) school – however, the following song ‘Void Wind’ ends in exactly the same way which leads to something of a touch of deja-vu. It must be said that whilst this is clearly a frenetic, well-played and suitably apocalyptic-sounding record, dynamics are occasionally an issue on ‘Temple Under Hell’, with most songs sticking to a tried-and-trusted formula of pummelling drums and churning guitars with little to break it up. Powerful, yes, but the effect does tend to wane without anything to break it up.

Erebus Enthroned make an attempt to add some ebb and flow by applying the brakes with the occasional section of haunting, bass-led ambience but it’s something of a token effort. By the time album closer ‘Return’ crashes in, a sense of wearying familiarity bleeds across its 8 minute plus running time – at this point on the album, things have run out of steam somewhat. Nevertheless, whilst it doesn’t win any awards for originality and falls short of being a genre milestone, ‘Temple Under Hell’ is a solid and satisfyingly punishing record.

(7.5/10 Frank Allain)