Following their stunning debut album On The Steps of the Temple, the Arizona-based instrumental duo Tempel take their sound to the next level on their forthcoming sophomore effort “The Moon Lit Our Path”, due June 16 in North America, June 15 in the UK/EU and June 19 in Germany.
Recorded at guitarist Ryan Wenzel’s Phoenix-area Arrowhead Studio, “The Moon Lit Our Path” — which features intricate artwork by Lucas Ruggieri (Kylesa, Dragged Into Sunlight), as seen above — features five colossal tracks that mix progressive, black, death and post-metal into one mammoth sonic cocktail.
Today, Tempel is pleased to reveal the album’s opening track, the eight-minute composition Carvings in the Door. The song is now available as an “instant grat” download with digital pre-orders of the new album on iTunes and Bandcamp. Fans can also stream the track in its entirety on PureGrainAudio or directly below via YouTube.
When Burzum released Hvis Lyset Tar Oss in 1994, underground metal was forever split. This album featured longer songs where concept was closely intertwined with song structure, and riff shape defined by mood. It both made undone past paradigms and raised the bar.
After that point, black metal and death metal deflated. The initial rise of ideas created in reaction to outrage at a dying civilization was gone, and nothing else propelled the genre forward, so it fell into self-imitation based on outward traits. Further, few bands could handle the raised bar, so it was “explained away” in social circles and the music tended toward the more primitive, not less.
Thus is the problem with raising the bar. Once you have done it, people either rise to the challenge and forge ahead in the new language, or have to hide the fact that they’re here for the gravy train which means they want to make the same dumbass music they would make in rock, pop, punk or blues, but use some distortion and call it “black metal.” That leads to high margins: the product is cheap to make because it’s a well-known type, but it has a higher markup due to novelty.
However, unless you’re deaf, you’ve noticed that the output of underground metal has seriously flagged in quality since the mid-1990s. Not so in quantity, of course, where we have more bands than ever before who have better production, are better instrumentalists, and generally more savvy at the music industry. Unfortunately the music they produce is not as good as what a few lonely intelligent outcasts did in the early 1990s.
This leads us back to a question of metal’s growth. Do we keep up with the raised bar? Style is not substance, but the two are related. Without enough substance, style never evolves; without the right style, substance often gets lost. Artists tend to visualize the two at the same time as part of the same articulation of an idea that they are communicating through mood, or the sensation of perceiving something and wanting to engage with it. In theory, metal could continue with what it has, using the same styles but writing new music, and many bands have succeeded in that. But keeping up with the raised bar has some advantages.
First, instrumental metal would be difficult and this would draw a line between metal and the pop, rock, blues and rap and place us closer to ambient and classical in the respect scale. Take for example this quote from educator Liam Malloy:
“In the past, heavy metal has not been taken seriously and is seen as lacking academic credibility when compared with other genres such as jazz and classical music. But that’s just a cultural construction.”
Second, this change would get rid of the vocal problem in metal. We know what death/black metal vocals are, but the shock has worn off as they’ve been appropriated by other genres. They are not extreme anymore, and overused by those who like them because a plausible imitation is easy to pull off. On the other hand, shouting vocals (Pantera) are annoying, most male singing sounds like drunk guys brawling, and the high pitched “operatic” vocals divide an audience. No vocals, no worries.
Third, this would make it easier to tell real metal bands from the weekenders. Real bands can put together long pieces that make sense, where the weekends just want the appearance thereof. Contrast real progressive rock like Yes to the somewhat paltry substitute in Opeth. Opeth have nailed the aesthetic, but not the underlying musical depth or density. When you hear the two together, it’s clear they are from different genres.
Fourth, instrumental metal would enable greater riffiness in metal. Already there’s a storm of protest when “riff salad” songs emerge, even if the riff makes sense. Much of death metal was an end run around using constant verse-chorus vocals, thus liberating guitars to create more interplay between riffs. Without vocals to keep bringing the song back to repetition, riffs could have greater leeway and repetition would exist not out of standard song form, but to emphasize parts of the song that need repeating for the sake of atmosphere.
Many people out there want metal to go instrumental. While it loses the masculine and terrifying aspect of the vocals, it encourages a competition among metal bands to not only preserve that but make it more extreme among their instrumentals. And if anything, that’s closer to the spirit of metal itself.
Death metal folk wisdom tells that the epithet “technical” generally connotes music that is bad for a unique reason: it tends to get trapped in technique, including cute tricks from music theory, for its own sake, which in turn deprecates the art of composing memorable and relevant songs.
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal was the simultaneous, sudden emergence of hundreds of heavy metal bands in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and early eighties. The NWOBHM was prompted by the collapse en masse of earlier hard rock bands and heavy metal originators. Led Zeppelin and other blues-based riff rock bands had collapsed into meandering stadium rock with only a couple listenable songs per record at best (“Achilles Last Stand” on Presence). Black Sabbath fell flat on their faces after Sabotage, making the meandering duo of Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die. Punk declined from almost-progressive works as the The Stooges’ Fun House to boy bands such as the Sex Pistols playing radio pop. Deep Purple regressed to playing what their former guitarist Ritchie Blackmore termed “Shoeshine music.”
It is very rare to find a general fan of black metal today who has not at least heard of the name of Watain. The kind of fame it has attained, however, is the kind that is mostly based on peripheral affairs rather than the art which Watain is supposed to dedicate itself to. Watain is the kind of ‘entity’ (as most of these bands are now given to call themselves) that is surrounded by a nebulous aura which may at first, if one is inclined to be generous in providing the benefit of the doubt, seem like an hint of something truly profound going on. Now, whether that is the case in regards to the real, transcendent or philosophical knowledge or experience of the people behind Watain is not for the writer to say. On the other hand, the music itself does not seem to display any of the more-than-human qualities it should if one is to believe all the hype. In fact, it reveals itself as a very mundane affair when one is given to delve into a holistic examination of the music in itself, and even more so when seen in relation to the extra-musical portions of the ‘entity’.
Condor again present a wholesale blending of death metal, classical guitar, folk, and progressive rock influences into epic heavy metal songs rather than pretending instrumental masturbation is intelligent like Dream Theater or that alternative rock with power chord chugging and a couple angular or dissonant riffs is metal like Bolzer. On Sangreal attempt to convey the romanticism behind the Arthurian legend, particularly the grail cycle concerning Percival or Galahad restoring fruit and flower to the desolate Waste Land rendered infertile by the sins of the maimed and emasculated Fisher King.
Metalheads love going to the post office. This is established fact; we are either sending off dubs or trades, or going there to receive a package full of music. Like most anti-social types, we do not trust centralized authorities like iTunes or major labels, so mostly our music comes in physical form. We like it that way.