Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Temple - On The Steps Of The Temple (2012)

When you look at the genre tags on the Bandcamp site for Phoenix, Arizona based Temple, it looks like a list of every subgenre in modern metal, hoping to attract a new listener or two with style alone. To the contrary, this is actually a summary of what this two piece band actually does in each and every track. With no vocal track within a hundred miles, this hour long instrumental album dabbles into all of the deepest and darkest corners of metal. Not in the "something for everyone" sense; but rather forming a new conglomeration of heavy elements. "On The Steps Of The Temple" is a diamond in the rough, with just enough polish to shine through.

In the opening segments of "Mountain," as the solemn guitars gives way to a pounding beat, you would think you fell head first into a modern black metal dream; pulverizing riffs and percussion, but with an above average production job. Even more than that, though, is the focus on finesse amidst the chaos. As they wind and weave through melody and mayhem totaling eight and half minutes, there are numerous instances where catchy and crunchy come together into one synchronized movement. There are clear divisions between the stanzas, with tempo and tone changes coming fast and furious. It would be a lie to say there aren't moments that feel unnecessarily long, but they are few and far between here, and easily redeemed. The machine gun snares and kicks just passed the midway point give you that perfectly timed flurry. Building on the same framework, "Rising From The Abyss" may be the strongest track on the album, taking on some of the most attractive elements of doom along the way. The slow, deliberate riff construction is a highlight, allowing the track to build organically. Tying it all together is a air of evil, something tangled in the lead that has you thinking a visit from Satan might not be too far away. Whether it is in the density of the chugging, or the light cymbal touches that float throughout the song, there is a lot going on, and even more to celebrate. The biggest victory is the contrasting styles thrust together; softer plucked guitars come head first into harshly distorted ones time and again.

At just over four minutes, the beautiful "Final Years" is the shortest track on the album but certainly not one to skip. There is a similarity in the way the intro is played that brings to mind the Opeth track "Isolation Years," though the two wouldn't be mistaken for one another. Atmospheric keyboards lay down a perfect backing for the post metal track, giving an added dimension to the mix. And while there isn't a massive metal riff until the final minute, this is one that may find a way into your ear canals time and time again. Quick to change gears again, "The Mist That Shrouds The Peaks" is the kind of bruising slug fest that can become the foundation for for albums to come. Far from one dimensional, however, there is a fusion of melody and morose in the building verses. Even the brief solo work takes on a life of its own, painting a dark picture with each note. Despite the crawling tempo, things seem to progress quickly over the ten minute span of the track. The instrumental is almost too good, waving and winding through every piece with ease and a delicate sense of balance. The fact that it stands on its own is incredible. Adding a vocal, in the form of a deep guttural growl, might prove to be too much for one mind to take. Even a minute of screeching distortion is a welcomed effect.

The depth of sound on "Avaritia" is sure to fool you into thinking you have an army at work, complete with spoken word sound bytes layered on top of it all. Once you remind yourself that this is, in fact, the work of two men, it becomes all the more impressive. Multiple layers of guitar and bass come together in a solid way, growing in strength as the track progresses. In one of the most fool proof tests, the lead riff that forms the backbone here gets the head moving, while the drumming gets one or both of your feet tapping along. There is a tremendous amount of effort put in to make something like this seem easy, but they do exactly that in the span of nearly ten minutes. And after the blasting body of the song has passed, a lightly played outro takes you into your destination, the eleven minute epic closer, "On The Steps Of The Temple." Without detracting from the previous five songs, this is the most complete composition on the album by a long shot. Through all the twists and turns, you are punished in the most satisfying way, beaten down by heavy handed percussion and violent distortion. Aggressive, daring, and insanely rich, every sliding guitar chord adds fuel to an already raging fire. It never spirals out of control; instead, this is a controlled blaze, heating up your speakers.

When you identify your sound with a laundry list of styles, the way Temple has, you are setting the bar abnormally high. Meeting expectations, then, becomes an entirely unlikely endeavor. But these two musicians do exactly that, delivering on every promise their tag line suggests. Having six tracks that draw dangerously close to the hour mark is intimidating, but the reward is more than worth it. Hidden in each of these opus' is a veritable what's what in metal. Fan of blaring distorted guitars? Got it. Lighting fast percussion? Check. The fact of the matter is, if you are looking for anything and everything, "On The Steps Of The Temple" has it; except for vocals. We don't need no stinkin' vocals.


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