Spire Guards the “Temple of Khronos” (Album Review)
Time is a great deceiver: it moves ever onwards without active acknowledgement from those it affects. It steals moments of happiness and brings untold sadness to our doors. Time marches on without thought, yet it is the one thing we wish we had more of. Why? Time brings nothing but death. Spire twist this narrative to fit their unique slant on black metal with Temple of Khronos, a record that hardly fits that simple genre classification but is probably the most tangible way to describe it.
The Australian duo have been creating music that sits well outside of the base elements of black metal for well over a decade and this is their first new music since 2016's Entropy set them on a new path of discovery. Metamorph in 2011 came with a slightly more doomed, ambient style in its lo-fi production while Entropy elevated that sound and curated a painful journey into the abyss, keeping those doom elements but stepping further out into the unknown on the way.
Temple of Khronos is another shift away from the sounds Spire have previously wrought from the depths and with it, the band have become something new, something fascinating, something terrifying. The record takes in ambient soundscapes, towering screams (alongside some of the most fascinating vocal patterns of recent years) and layered guitars which churn with anguish. The atmosphere is one that allows you to believe you are at the centre of a world in turmoil and that it is your destiny to find this temple of time, enter its sacred grounds and become all powerful—to control the future by destroying the present.
Time plays a huge part in the concept of Temple of Khronos, with most songs containing obvious or metaphorical references to the charge of time, not least opener "Chronometer" which deconstructs the sound of clock hands moving in such a way as to create a sense of desperate unease in what will follow. "Hymn I - Tyrant" echoes with the refrain "...time’s arrow is loosed" and references to Apollo who is either a healer or plague bringer, depending on your view which goes a long way to informing the events that unfold over the course of the record.
"Hymn I - Tyrant" begins this voyage on a monumental blend of styles made all the more intriguing by Spire fully moving away from the doom textures that they have previously incorporated into their sound. The voices of the temple are brought to life through layered, choral chants that weave their way through the fabric of the song as the main vocal segues from deep clean lines to echoing spoken word to shuddering howls—each a new player on the stage and adding to the heightened drama of the record. It feels like a long lost legend told through a modern, musical lens and as such Spire transcend the chains of black metal as we know it.
Apollo’s ability to bring disease and plague is the focus of "Hymn II - Tormenter" as the lyrics reference locusts and the song reflects on the dismantling of the world through discordant guitars and exceptionally maniacal vocal approaches. Guttural howls wrap around rumbling chords while twisted chants bring about a sense of blackened spirituality. The climbing, staccato vocal that begins around the half-way mark of this ten-minute song becomes more demented as the track progresses and shows just how far from their roots Spire have moved—this is not the same band of five years ago and the transformation is absolute.
The disparate guitars of "Hymn III - Harbinger" radiate with anxiety as curious, inhaled screams pass through the ether and into the material world taking on weight and transferring their energy into more tangible sounds as the song brings about the feeling that the old world has crossed into the new and is on course for the destruction it seeks. “Hymn IV - Puissant” signals the beginning of the end and Spire reach into their own past to dredge doomed elegance to the fore. Vocals are low, drawn out chants and musically the song is rich in ambient patterns and unusual arrangements. It is a precursor to the inevitable and allows for a moment of pause in a record that is enormous in its scope and context. "Puissant" slyly adjusts its tone as it progresses and builds to denser, more chaotic rhythms that crowd the mind and push for control.
That power fully takes over in final track "Hymn V - Khronos" as time becomes the masterful weapon that can change everything. Spire's serving of these songs as odes to a sovereign deity is an excellent strategy for falling completely under its spell. The preaching tone of this final composition resonates in its final words: "As it was spoken, in the ego." Is time the disease, or are we? This is a question that Spire aim to answer during Temple of Khronos, and one that is ultimately given weight during the closing moments as it seeks to understand the rippling effect one decision has on the whole of humanity—the future looks back at the past and sees its own annihilation in Khronos' eyes.
Temple of Khronos releases February 19th through Sentient Ruin Laboratories.