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.
Alpha Hydrae is a rather recent metal outfit hailing from Monterrey, northern Mexico. Their only official release to date is their full-length Venomous Devotion – The Hematic Lust from 2013. Despite its misleading title, this is no symphonic metal, but rather old-style melodic black metal with a strong use of keyboards. It could be described as “gothic” as well, not in reference to the terrible metal subgenre of the same name (that swarm of early-Paradise Lost copycats), but according to its ambiance and obsession with tales of vampiric fantasies. (more…)
Musical innovation does not spawn independently. Most of the progressions in underground metal have taken stylistic influence from more accessible genres and within those aural parameters created a new foundational narrative to divorce the context from the aesthetics it had previously used as a guideline. This approach allows for a less jarring immersion into a musical journey while at the same time utilizing tropes of superficial familiarity to manipulate the audience into being subjugated to an indirect path towards the artistic catharsis of unique expression that is the spiritual negative of the aesthetics used. On Satanic Rites, we can observe how Hellhammer has utilized the foundation of punk rock to shape their sound while introducing a unique tonality and dynamic scope to flesh out the beginnings of a new musical genre. (more…)
Remember back in the mid-1990s when every black metal musician of repute boasted involvement in at least one dark ambient project? Although the move away from metallic ground towards previously uncharted territories comes across as a farseeing maneuver in hindsight – black metal had after all reached its creative zenith at this point – the lion’s share of resultant products left a lot to be desired. (more…)
One of the hallmarks of great musical works is that every note has a purpose to move the mindset of the listener in some direction. Musical structure whether on a small or grand scale is what gives music much of its power and memorability; a focused work that wastes no note and moves with constant intent from distinctive point A to distinctive point B and on will embed itself into the mind of the listener not just for its general sound and aesthetic but in its entirety. Classical pianist James Rhodes said of Ludwig van Beethoven, likely the greatest composer of memorable themes in western art music, that with his works, “Every note was sweated over, every theme worked on tirelessly and chiselled into immortality. The manuscripts of Bach and Mozart look spotless next to the messy, crossed-out, almost indecipherable madness of Beethoven’s. While Mozart hurled symphonies on to paper as fast as he could write, barely without correction, Beethoven stewed and fought and wrestled and argued and raged until he forced what he was looking for out and onto the page.”  Sadly, however, the importance and art of structure is often ignored and neglected entirely within metal albums. Too often a death or black metal band is content to choose a tempo or two and proceed to restate the same content through interchangeable means for a length such that they overstay their welcome about halfway through the ordeal. (more…)
Altar of Perversion return with Intra Naos, a post-black metal album taking this limited and confused style to its best, though still inefficient, results. We start by stating that this is not a black metal album because it is not a metal album in the first place, although its instrumentation, general use of imagery and screetched vocals may give us cause to think it is. Rather than being based on actual riffs to form phrases which themselves give rise to a sequence of flows , Intra Naos displays the shortcomings of what we have in the past characterized wallpaper black metal . The overall experience of the album is one of somnolescence brought about by the lack of musical content in an extremely long recording full of ‘sounds’. (more…)
It has been over a month since we have launched the song contest here at DMU. Our suspicions that very few people would enter the contest due to our reputation for honest yet harsh reviews were confirmed. This was probably why only two contestants presented themselves in any capacity. Consequently, no winner shall be appointed nor will awards be handed out: two entries do not constitute a contest.
As with anything labeled “USBM,” it is an inevitable that an experienced metal fan will approach this release with caution regarding just how flannelly, how post rock, how try-hard and yet how vulnerable it is. With a cliched moniker that clashes together a couple of clumsy tropes to echo the oil and water mixture that Americans and black metal suspend as, Wolvhammer presents itself and its material as confidently confrontational so the saccharine despair of modern takes on the vulturized genre are initially somewhat absent, but the juvenile approach does not in its stead give credence to the overbearing impudence on display.
tl;dr: Despite controversy surrounding the indie pedigree of Weakling’s musicians and their musical descendants, Dead as Dreams remains, as described by none other than Fenriz, an “odd masterpiece” on its musical merits and should be a part of any serious underground metal fan’s collection. The album, for a number of reasons, is currently something of a locus of blame for whatever particular sins people ascribe to west coast black metal. Some people point to Weakling as the origin point of indie creep into US black metal due to the supposed indie credibility of its members in particular as well as to a lesser extent the trend of questionable publicity stunts engaged in by mediocre bands from Velvet Cocoon to Ghost Bath (although in Weakling’s case this should be blamed on the label, not the band). As a result of these complaints, Dead As Dreams has over time become something of an Emmanuel Goldstein for black metal fans, and the album some people are critiquing when they say “Dead as Dreams” (such as the time DMU’s most alpha editor described it as “shoegaze black metal”) bears little resemblance to the actual album Dead As Dreams.