If you have been listening to black metal for a while, then chances are Summoning has come across your path. The band has become a classic in the genre and it is no surprise why. Not only is Summoning’s music filled with an incredible majesty––which perfectly encapsulates J. R. R. Tolkien’s work––but the band’s second full-length, Minas Morgul, is a timeless classic. Thanks to beautiful keyboards, melodic guitar riffs, and Protector and Silenus’s amazing vocals, Minas Morgul deserves to be called a masterpiece. A sensational record has the ability to influence a large degree of musicians. This idea applies to Minas Morgul because the album helped define what epic/atmospheric black metal is. As a result, you can find many bands that play in a similar style to the music of Minas Morgul. For example, there are Caladan Brood, Emyn Muil, and Druadan Forest.
One artist that I believe does not get enough love is L’Ordre du Temple. L’Ordre du Temple was an epic/atmospheric black metal project from Italy. The project consisted of one member––who goes by the moniker, Count David––and he has two releases under his wing. One is a three-way split with fellow Italian black metallers, Teuta and Ringwraith. L’Ordre du Temple’s other release is his debut album, In Hoc Signo Vinces.
In Hoc Signo Vinces was released in 2007 and it is the last piece of music that the project put out. The album contains a similar style of music that Summoning plays. However, the key difference between the two is L’Ordre du Temple’s greater emphasis on medievalism. While Summoning’s brand of black metal sounds medieval to an extent, L’Ordre du Temple is drenched in an aura that strongly reminds me of the period. This sentiment is a result of Count David’s keyboards, which he uses to emulate instruments from the Middle Ages. In addition, L’Ordre du Temple’s songs focus on the Knights Templar. With these two factors, In Hoc Signo Vinces symbolically takes listeners through the Templars’ journeys, their devotion to God, and the esoteric secrets that they held.
The album contains truly glorious music. This becomes apparent when the intro track, “Sancta Sanctorum,” starts. The slowly rising symphonics prepare the listener for what lies ahead. Eventually, the first black metal song, “Nine Shadows Behind the Temple,” begins. This track takes a slow-paced approach, which allows it to build up a sense of grandness. This grand nature reaches its apex during the chorus, where Count David’s harsh and clean vocals sing in union. David’s vocals are a highlight of this record. While his harsh screams give off a magical atmosphere, David’s clean singing sounds absolutely magnificent. Afterward, another instrumental track––“Waiting for a God’s Sign”––comes into play. The soaring keyboards are accompanied by samples of townsfolk chatting and a horse galloping at the end of the song. With these elements, David further pulls the listener into this view of the Templars’ lives.
The album is at its best when slow to mid-paced tracks, such as “Et in Arcadia Ego” and “The Knight’s Dream,” appear. In these songs, David conjures an awe-inspiring atmosphere by allowing the keyboards to move at a limited pace. Also, he includes brief interludes in both tracks. These moments create an engagingly brief melody, which I find myself humming to. However, the record is not only composed of slow-moving songs. “What Magic Is, What Are the Parts Thereof, and How the Professors Thereof Must Be Qualified” and “Libellus Veneris Nigro Sacer” present the faster side of L’Ordre du Temple’s music. Do not expect unrelenting aggression with these tracks though. After the blistering introduction in “What Magic Is…,” David transitions to more mid-paced riffs and symphonics. There is a charming melodicism to the guitars in this track. So regardless of the song’s faster sections, it fits alongside the other material on In Hoc Signo Vinces. The same can be said about “Libellus Veneris Nigro Sacer” because it includes everything that I love about L’Ordre du Temple’s music: beautiful keyboards, grand riffs, and David’s excellent vocal performance.
All in all, L’Ordre du Temple’s In Hoc Signo Vinces provides a stunning portrayal of the Templars’ lives. While the project is somewhat similar to other popular epic/atmospheric black metal acts, L’Ordre du Temple is able to stand out with its brand of heavenly music. Definitely give this album a try if you are looking for something that sounds familiar, yet distinct in its own ways.
For Fans Of: Summoning, Caladan Brood, Eldamar, Emyn Muil, and Druadan Forest.
Standout Tracks: “Nine Shadows Behind the Temple,” “Waiting for a God’s Sign,” “Et in Arcadia Ego,” and “The Knight’s Dream.”