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Grotesque, unsettling, foreboding, and utterly merciless. Listening to Temple Nightside’s ‘Condemnation’ can be likened to that one time I took a dubious substance, went to a gig, and spent the three hours after getting home buzzing and playing the first Silent Hill game with headphones. It’s that same sense of claustrophobia, of a threat of violation that lurks some point beyond your ability to sense or even define it. This is music that sounds like the taste of blood as you draw your tongue across jagged rust.

The album is haunted by hissing feedback, tailing the sounds like the static of a battered cassette tape, drowning the clarity of the music into a muffled, otherworldly roar. Ferocious double kick blurs into a wall of sound punctuated by harsh cymbals that heave from the mire of hissing with terrifying malevolence. The vocals ooze from the pores of the tracks, coalescing in the ears to form a monstrous roar that is beyond the realms of human utterance. And the rest of the instruments blur into a kind of amorphous drone, the chord patterns sounding like a hymn from hell, and the cavernous yet swampy sound, somewhere between a guitar almost obliterated by distortion and a harsh synth howl, is so indefinable it starts to really put the listener on edge.

The whole thing lopes along at a trudging pace. This makes for gruelling listening, with no relief offered at all. No tempo changes jolt you into a more comfortable zone, no shifts in the instrumental sound occur. The atonal moans of the instruments gape like chasms, their dark red-stained mouths reverberating with the inexpressible shudders their sounds cause. The closest thing to a rest is the almost four-minute interlude of static and feedback hum, which drags on to the point of causing some genuine psychological distress, as it takes away the claustrophobia and replaces it with agoraphobia, as the shadowy, cloying bassiness of the instruments and the too-close vocal rumbles drop away the enclosing walls to be replaced by a spectral expanse of whistling, whispering nothingness. And this just carries on, which no rhyme or reason, until you could swear that you start to hear voices in the grey crackle and hiss. This then haunts the guitar squalls of the following track, as the listener is tempted into trying to form words first from the mutilated wails of guitar, then from that ever-present background of sound that resembles a very distant choir of medieval monks more than anything else.

I don’t know if ‘Condemnation’ is brutal, or raw, or what, as it just seems to barely even register as identifiably music. So the usual genre tags and sound descriptions feel completely redundant. All I can say is that it is an absolute masterwork in terms of trying to create the most unsettling aural experience out there.