Garden Of Heathens

Active for well over a decade, it seems that things are moving forward for HEAVY TEMPLE. It’s my first encounter with them and I like what I hear. A swirling doom riffed mass of cosmic psychedelic metal that envelopes the listener from the opening riff of Extreme Indifference To Life to the closing aural thrashing chaos of Psychomanteum. It invites you in with a slightly sinister edge, but like those fools who enter the haunted house in the black of night, you’re hooked and quickly engulfed by HEAVY TEMPLE’S powerful intoxication.

Step back a little and we find a band who have been building since their formation in 2012, in Philadelphia. HEAVY TEMPLE’s debut full-length Lupi Amoris arrived in 2021, with two earlier EPs paving the way in 2014 and 2016. I’m not familiar with these works, but Lupi Amoris received a decent rating (10/10) on the excellent Metal Temple site, and that’s a good sign.

The lineup who recorded this record is listed as the High Priestess Nighthawk on vocals and bass, Lord Paisley on guitar and drummer Baron Lycan. Whilst I’m sure that these aren’t written on the members individual birth certificates, we’ll move on past this and focus on the music, for boy can this three-piece kick out the jams!

Gardens Of Heathens bathes in a gloriously retro and organic production by John Forrestal that provides exactly the style and sound that a band of this genre need. For a trio they make a stonking racket, mixing their tempo and length of track to great effect. Extreme Indifference To Life is the ideal album opener, whilst Hiraeth almost demands you punch the air. Paisley demonstrates some stunning fluid and stylish guitar work, complex chopping solos range across the track, making you wonder if they need a supporting guitarist for the live shows.

There’s some heavy-duty swagger laced across the eight songs that feature here, with the desert rock of Divine Indiscretion amongst those that catch the attention. A whistling maelstrom of riffs, crashing drums, and Nighthawk’s soaring vocals all draw you in.

Influences are many. You can draw everything from The Beatles to Baroness, The Sword to Sabbath and Fu Manchu. It’s all here in a heady mix of chaos that the band appear happy to flirt with throughout. They weave it all together into a ferocious combination that works on every level. The majestic Snake Oil (And Other Remedies) not only has one of the best song titles I’ve heard for many a year, but it also provides a central highlight for the album. Just shy of nine minutes, it’s a phenomenal blast of driving stoner rock with gothic overtones on the vocals. Stick it on loud on headphones and prepare to lose yourself in the sweet throb that HEAVY TEMPLE conjure. And then enjoy the calm, almost oriental vibe that slowly caresses the mind as In The Garden Of Heathens washes over you. It’s ying and yang, and it works beautifully. One might say that some exotic substances could enhance this ride further, but you don’t need hallucinogenic assistance to enjoy this.

It’s unsurprising to read the list of luminaries who they have shared the stage with over the past decade. Corrosion Of Conformity, Royal Thunder and most recently a US tour with The Obsessed – all bands that you can rightly see HEAVY TEMPLE nestle comfortably alongside. They close with the pounding instrumental Psychomanteum. A song that rages in a manner unlike anything else in the release, and one that would find full approval from the bands above. From the searing guitar, the distorted fuzz of the bass and the rolling drums that simply explode, it’s the ideal end to an album that really gives everything, from start to finish.

Paul Hutchings