John 3:16, the brainchild of producer Phillipe Gerber, is one of those projects that carries with it a long standing history over the last decade of being experimental, dark, and unapologetically divergent from its Biblical namesake. I first came into contact with Phillipe somewhere between 2010 and 2011, slightly before the release of his seminal “Visions of the Hereafter” album in 2012. During this time Phillipe has had nineteen releases under the John 3:16 moniker. His latest album “Edax Tempus Rerum,” is without a doubt his most important work yet. It was released on November 30th, 2020.
The cover artwork for “Tempus Edax Rerum” is very earthy. It’s sepia tone evokes desolation, death, and a slow, painful passage of time. These things are only exacerbated by sparse images of brush, sticks, and a solitary rotting lamb (of God?) in the middle left of the image, followed by another image of the lamb below it in a further state of decay. It’s almost as if Mortensen’s “Command to Look” was heavily referenced in the design of this cover as there’s something oddly dangerous about it.
The first thing that stuck out to me when I listened to “Tempus Edax Rerum” was its two hour length—although I quickly caught on to the fact that the album is in fact only a little more than an hour in length. John 3:16 gives the listener a choice, you can listen to the album in a digestible five tracks, or in a consolidated “omnibus” form which collects those five tracks into two thirty-one minute segments. Although, I will note that when you listen to this album in omnibus format, there are some really badass extras, particularly starting around the sixteen minute mark on Side A. I will say no more about this–pick your poison, just know that a slightly different “Tempus Edax Rerum” experience can be felt if you decide to plunge into the collected omnibus tracks.
Over the last two months of physically having this album in my hands I question how to describe “Tempus Edax Rerum.” In a couple of words I can say that this album is spiritually dangerous. At times, Phillipe presents more of an experience than he does actual music, although that experience is largely tied into how the listener relates the the vast soundscape found within this brilliant album. At times, there’s a very “Diablo II”-esque kind of vibe to this album. The latter half of “Part I” and “Part II” exemplifies this quality with shoegazey guitars draped over a tableau of atmosphere, processed pianos, and subtle brass. Repeated over and over again, it becomes very clear that this is music meant to be used for a very specific purpose. Personally speaking, as a long time practitioner of Black Magic, I found that “Tempus Edax Rerum” was the perfect backdrop for my private Grand Conjunction celebration on the 21st of December, 2020. Percussion, when it’s used, is very ritualistic. “Part II” cuts right to the chase when it comes to introducing soundtrack style percussion to help accentuate the medieval tone of the dueling guitars present throughout the track.
One of the things that “Tempus Edax Rerum” does really well is it’s implementation of sounds that might not normally feel listenable into the mix of the album. While present throughout, I feel that the introduction to “Part III” serves as a good example of how this is accomplished. After settling into “Part II’s” groove “Part III” rips you right out of that space with a grating metallic squeal that is used to push acoustic guitars forward into another, entirely different ceremonial tone that once again introduces percussion without feeling out of place or forced. There’s something very elegant about the way John 3:16 works with transitions on “Tempus Edax Rerum,” while still somehow maintaining a dark ugliness that doesn’t merely force you to dip your toes into fire, it pushes your head straight down into the Hells-broth itself.
My favorite track, simply entitled “Part IV,” is a deepcut collaboration with female vocalist Rasplyn (Carolyn O’Neill). This track features Rasplyn’s voice front and center, amidst a backdrop of breathy ambience, muted guitars, plodding soundtrack style ritualistic drums, and heavily EQed Ulver style male vocals to accentuate the experience further. Everything that came before “Part IV” on “Tempus Edax Rerum” serves as a precursor to this track by re-introducing nearly every aspect that helped to create the space here. Halfway through “Part IV” I was treated to a calming Bear McCreary style percussion that just begs to be performed before an audience open to the idea of being participants to something they might not entirely understand. If I had it my way, I would love to hear an entire album of shorter songs by John 3:16 with Rasplyn. This, to me, is the penultimate John 3:16 moment.
“Part V” closes the album out with a shorter exploration of all the elements that made up “Tempus Edax Rerum.” Although I will say that this exploration is much more straightforward and to the point. There’s a lot of experimental energy to this track that feels like a medieval witch burning.
I think that “Tempus Edax Rerum,” is special because it combines the sensibilities of drone and black metal with a soundtrack quality that shows the sheer range of Phillipe Gerber’s capabilities as an artist. Phillipe understands precisely where he wants to go and how he’s going to get there. Speaking from the heart, there’s only one other album released this year that feels as realized and as polished as what John 3:16 has released here. If I was making movies or short films, (which might actually happen in the near future) John 3:16 would without a doubt be one of the artists I would tap as the imagery I’m attracted to within my mind is congruent to the soundscape presented here. “Tempus Edax Rerum,” is an incredible piece that cannot be easily understood the first, second, or third time you listen to it. I only grew to appreciate it when it became a lingering part of my life over the last couple of months. “Tempus Edax Rerum” is that one album I can turn on to do anything: to relax, to evoke the Prince of Darkness, to be creative.
This album sits within the unholy trinity that is my top three albums of 2020. (Of which, I’ll probably write something else about when we finally get into 2021).
STAND-OUT TRACKS: All.
RECOMMENDED FOR: Ritualists, soundtrack aficionados, burnt out Black Metal enthusiasts, people who understand the true nature of Darkness with a capital ‘D.’
Album Color Profile: EVIL SMOKE FROM HELLISH HELLY HELL
You can find all things John 3:16 at https://john316.bandcamp.com/