(We’ve made no secret about how much we like the music of Temple of Void, and so it’s a real pleasure to present Comrade Aleks‘ extensive (and very interesting) interview of ToV guitarist Alex Awn.)
NCS’ faithful followers may remember a cool interview we did here with Michael Erdody in December 2017. He plays guitars in the psychotic doom death sect Acid Witch and growls in Temple Of Void, a more straightforward death doom band at that moment. Both bands had new releases back then and we had a lot to discuss.
Shadow Kingdom Records have now released Temple Of Void‘s third full-length album, The World That Was, on the 27th of March, 2020. I expected from the band that they would go deeper into the realms of death, but the reality turned a different way. Alex Awn (guitars) provided us with a great interview telling us about Temple Of Void‘s new aspects.
Hi Alex! How are you doing? How do you spend your quarantine time?
Working, enjoying the unprecedented quality time with my wife and kid, painting miniatures, reading fantasy, and playing RPG’s with my friends via Roll20. Oh, and writing riffs for TOV’s fourth album.
What helps you not to go insane during this strange time?
I’m a busy man. Work, family, and art. I’m always doing something. I don’t believe in being bored.
It seems you surpassed yourselves with The World That Was. You kept all the strong elements of previous works, and at the same time there’s moments like that striking atmospheric melody inserted in ‘Self-Schism’ or the baroque interlude in ‘A Single Obolus’ written by Mike. Did you feel when you finished the album that this time it was different, better, stronger?
We were proud of it once it was all said and done, that’s for sure. I don’t think we feel it’s all that different, as much as it’s a logical evolution? As soon as we started tracking I knew that the tones we had dialed in were the best yet. So it was bound to sound the best from a production stand-point. Same engineer. Same studio. But we just keep getting better results the more we work together. It’s a good partnership.
For me, the real differentiator was deciding we’d put synth and sound design on every track. And then really dialing that in with the perfect levels in the mix. That really took this album to a different level. It felt like a perfection of a concept we’d been playing with since the first album. You mention “atmosphere” above… and that’s really the x-factor in everything we do. Atmosphere is a culmination of elements and ideas. It’s an outcome, not an ingredient. And it’s something we strive for as part of our signature sound.
It’s your first full-length work with Don Durr on second guitar. How did you build your collaboration with him?
Brent and I have known Don for over twenty years. We’ve always been friends and really admired him as a guitarist and song-writer. He had started coming on the road with us and helping us out. So when the time came for a new guitarist he was our number one pick. Don and I would jam together at our houses. Working on song skeletons for The World That Was. We really gelled well. We are closer together in terms of technique and background than I am with Eric. I actually thought that would be to our detriment because I loved the diversity of thought that Eric brought. But it’s been a boon for us. Don and I have both expanded our song-writing styles in similar ways, so we carry the weight of the song and the riff 50/50. There’s a lot of overlap in our thinking, which is really helpful, but there’s enough diversity that we’re always enhancing what the other is doing. He’s passionate about what we do and it’s great to have him on board.
How did you decide to include this short piece ‘A Single Obolus’ in the album? It’s a bit atypical for the band, and though there was a short instrumental like this on Lords Of Death (‘An Ominous Journey’), and actually I was wondering if you would turn in more death-focused direction after Lords Of Death.
We have a tradition of doing instrumental pieces on each album. Of Terror and the Supernatural, Lords Of Death, The World That Was, and even our four-way split CD all have instrumentals. We’ll always carve out time on each album for a Mike Erdody instrumental. Sometimes it’s just him, sometimes he might have some sort of accompaniment. Mike is a really talented guitarist and he always brings something fresh to the album with his instrumental visions. This one had a Latin vibe to it because it’s dedicated to our drummer’s great friend, who passed away. They played in an Afro-Cuban style band together so Mike was trying to channel a bit of that sound with this tribute.
Temple Of Void – Self-Schism
It’s good that Mike can contribute some musical ideas in Temple Of Void too. Did he actually take part in The World That Was songwriting besides that track?
Mike doesn’t contribute to the riff-writing. But when he’s at practice he does help with song structure aspects. He carries his weight (and then some) through his lyrics and incredible vocal performances. We don’t fuck with his lyrics. That’s all him. And for the most part we’re kinda left up to our own devices for the music.
Well, how did you go further from your grinding death metal sound? Did you know what this album would be different from the start?
Of Terror and the Supernatural was predominantly doom. Lords Of Death was predominantly death. So we had a 50/50 balance between the two. And as a death-doom band we have a lot of potential arrows in our quiver. Just as Of Terror and the Supernatural didn’t set the die for how we’d forever sound, I don’t think Lords Of Death did either. And The World That Was won’t dictate how we sound in the future. There’s a thread that permeates everything we do. It’s always recognizable as Temple of Void. We can’t ever lose that. But it might manifest itself differently from time to time.
The first track we wrote for The World That Was was actually the closer, “The World that Was.” So based on that we wondered if we’d be writing these sprawling 10-minute epics for the album. But it didn’t turn out that way. We couldn’t have anticipated tracks like “Self-Schism” or “Leave the Light Behind.” We just write and we jam and we keep what we like and ditch what we don’t. Our albums happen very organically. They’re not preconceived directions. We labor intently over the songcraft. But I don’t think we ever know what an album is going to sound like before we start writing. All we know is that it will have death, it will have doom, and it will sound like Temple of Void. But that’s a very 50,000 ft view. We don’t know what surprises we’ll generate along the way.
Another unusual song on the album is ‘Leave The Light Behind’, reminding me of the melodic death doom of Katatonia in the time of Brave Murder Day. Plus these melancholic clean vocals and amazing space synths. How was this song born?
I had those riffs for quite a while. The song was born from jamming with Don in his basement and just both vibing on Brave Murder Day. Katatonia has always been a key influence in what Temple Of Void does, but this was the first time we channeled it with that driving Brave Murder Day style drumbeat. It’s been a surprising hit with the fans, I gotta say. I felt it was a bit of a challenging move to put it on the album, but we just followed our heart, and we write and record what we love. So it made it the cut and people really responded positively.
Mike lays down whatever vocals he thinks fit the atmosphere of the track. We liked the clean vocals he used for one track on the prior album and he took a different tact with this album. Still just one song, but he tried a bit more of a Peter Steele-ish approach. There isn’t much of a death metal vibe in this song when it comes to guitars, but Mike’s voice adds more than enough heft to make sure it still crushes.
The synths fell to me. We had a couple friends contribute to the other tracks and I decided to tackle one myself. The driving beat just had this Hawkwind vibe to me. I love what they do with ring modulators and spacey sounds. So I just tried to explore that and was really happy with what came out.
Yes, I was surprised how organic the song sounds on the album, and previously these influences didn’t show themselves. Can you name some bands which are integral parts of Temple Of Void’s DNA besides the hidden code of Katatonia?
There are some obvious ones and some not-so-obvious ones. For the former, there’s Asphyx, Bolt Thrower, Paradise Lost, Immolation, and Morbid Angel. For the latter, I’d say Alice in Chains, Godflesh, Neurosis, Killing Joke, Burzum, and Swervedriver.
This time synths were performed not only by Omar Jon Ajluni but also by Meredith Davidson. How did you work with them? Did they have all the freedom they needed to write their parts?
They are both friends of mine. With Meredith she just worked remotely. I’d give her some loose ideas verbally and then she worked her magic. She was approaching things from more of a sound-design perspective, rather than a musical perspective. She helped us attain atmosphere like we were scoring a film. And with Omar, I go to his studio, we kick around ideas, and then he works some magic. He’s like a mad scientist. Again, I have a very loose idea of what I want direction-wise. But in both cases, it’s really all their talent and imagination that make this happen.
Despite all the new influences in The World That Was, you took part in the 4 Doors to Death II split album. However I’d like to ask if you have ever planned to record some tracks for a split with a death doom band?
We are talking about a split 7” with a death-doom band right now. But I’ll keep that under wraps until it’s agreed upon.
Temple Of Void – Harvest Of Flesh
Did you get any negative feedback considering the less extreme and straightforward direction of The World That Was? Like in the good old times when Paradise Lost or Tiamat did their experiments, you know.
Our fans followed us from Of Terror and the Supernatural to Lords Of Death and they didn’t complain that we swung the pendulum away from doom and more towards death. And as we moved that pendulum back so it sits firmly in between both doom and death on The World That Was, our fans haven’t complained. It’s definitely sold better than any record prior. And the reviews have been outstanding. I’m sure if you scour Reddit you might find someone saying they prefer Lords Of Death or whatever. But that’s none of our concern. The overall feeling we’ve gotten from the press and the fans is that The World That Was is our finest release to date. We all think so. And we’re glad that it’s resonated so well with everyone.
I don’t think anyone in the band considers this experimental. It’s just an evolution. It almost feels like a lost album that could have slid between Of Terror and the Supernatural and Lords Of Death if you really want to think about moving from doom to death. But that’s irrelevant really. It came out when it came out. It is what it is. It’s been regarded as our best work and we’re most proud of it. So we’re really happy and excited about where we are right now.
Temple Of Void is based in Detroit, and it may sound like a sort of cliche, but how does your environment influence the things you do in the band? Is it one of the sources of negativity you’ve channeled through the band? Well… until The World That Was release at least, as it brings a new mood in your songs.
Detroit’s history is familiar to everyone. It’s a place of hardship and adversity. But that’s a real blessing in disguise. Detroit triumphs over adversity. It breeds resilience and creativity. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Detroit is responsible for the genesis of so many styles of music or for putting out some of the most influential artists in the history of music. And if you think about the artists that come out of Detroit…they’re all pretty confrontational. Detroit has a real punk / DIY ethos coursing through its veins. I believe living here has an influence on what we do, for sure. It’s a great environment to be a part of.
But it seems like you’re quite focused with Temple Of Void. What makes you to stay so concentrated with the band? Is there a place for healthy ambitions?
Some of us have other bands, but Temple of Void is our main focus without a doubt. The simple answer on why we’re so concentrated and with healthy ambitions is because we love it. This isn’t our job. This isn’t our paycheck. This is our art. We’re brothers together on some crazy cosmic death-doom journey. If it wasn’t fun and fulfilling we’d stop. Until then it’s full speed ahead.
How would you describe the local death metal / death-doom scene’s ethos? Does performing Temple Of Void material on stage grant you rewarding experiences?
Playing live can be transcendent when everything aligns. For me it’s incredibly rewarding and there’s nothing that can take its place. I fucking love playing shows. I don’t get involved with local scene politics. I’m too old to give a shit what some scenester thinks. I like to watch great local bands and I love to play live. That’s all I need to concern myself with.
I’ve seen a miniature from the Of Terror and the Supernatural artwork made with a 3D-printer on the band’s Facebook. Are you starting a new line of merch? : )
I used an online platform to create a custom mini based on the artwork of our debut album. My friend printed it out for me with his resin printer. And I painted it up. We’re definitely not dabbling in any kind of toy/miniature merch line. In fact, if anyone wants the STL file so they can print out the mini and paint it up then they can contact me and I’ll send it to them for free.
Temple Of Void – Savage Howl
Cool option! Do you paint miniatures just for yourself or is it a part of a bigger hobby like board-games playing?
I paint Warhammer miniatures for myself. I’m super into the painting and the lore. I also play D&D and Call of Cthulhu on a weekly basis.
By the way, do you see Temple Of Void as a continuation of your interest in fantasy worlds?
Temple of Void is definitely linked to our love of sword & sorcery / fantasy / horror / epic escapism. Hopefully when you listen to our albums and read our lyrics we take you on a mental journey through time and space. And maybe when we really get it right, we take you into the abyss.
Alex, thank you for the interview. I guess we’ve given our readers a proper look into Temple Of Void. Did we miss something?
Thank you for the thoughtful questions. Brent is always down to interact with fans on Instagram and I keep the Facebook page really active. So just get in touch. We love hearing from people and talking about all kinds of shit with our community. It’s pretty amazing. Bang that head!