In recent years, there has been a massive surge in “occult” doom metal, with bands such as Ghost gaining immense mainstream popularity. The formula, however, remains constant throughout the spectrum – downtuned, fuzzy psychedelic rock riffs lifted from the cookbook of Coven, Pentagram and Pagan Altar, clean female vocals that do not aim to do anything other than imitate Jinx Dawson – rinse and repeat. Saturnalia Temple caught the attention of doom metal fans in 2011 with Aion of Drakon. The album consisted of psychedelic-tinged, extremely downtuned sludge with repetitive, droning riffs and ambitiously long tracks.
To the Other is an evolution of the band from Aion of Drakon into the realm of heavier sludge-based sound, without losing its mystical edge. The sound perfectly resonates with the band’s lyrical themes of occult and witchcraft, as heard in the self-titled track, which is a plodding, pummeling behemoth of psychedelic sludge/doom. The song also exemplifies how a nine minute song with a single riff can be cleverly crafted to remain interesting throughout the entire length. A clean guitar riff plays along with pummeling bass and marching drums, while the guitars indulge in space rock effects and guitar solos. This is a treat for fans of sludge/doom and psychedelic rock alike. The vocalist has fortunately decided to change his technique since the last album, choosing to employ a harsher style over monotonous chanting heard in Aion of Drakon.
To the Other is, luckily a very varied album, as the third track speeds up, if only slightly, to a rock-based tempo and riffing style. Fortunately, none of the heaviness or the psychedelic charm of the album is lost in the process as the band knows how to maintain a mystical atmosphere. The formula of the first two tracks is continued with the fourth song, titled March of Gha’agsheblah, but it somehow does not get tiring, as the pacing here is much better than on their previous effort, where the songs would drag for too long with a single idea.
The obvious psychedelic atmosphere of the album is unique in the sense that it does not take anything away from the murky, menacing vibe that Saturnalia Temple were aiming for. It does not fall for typical stoner doom cliches of abusing the blues scale or paying “homage” to Master of Reality. The guitar solos do not extend for too long, so do not expect any indulgent psychedelic jamming, although the style of solos is apparently heavily influenced by modern heavy psych and desert rock, the only difference is that the mood created is dark and menacing as opposed to trippy and euphoric.
To the Other may not bring anything radically new to the table but it is certainly among the better doom metal albums of recent times. It is unique in very minor but noticeable ways which makes it stand out among the hordes of similar-sounding bands of today. A highly recommended release for lovers of slow, down-tuned gloom and evil.