Album Review: Let Tempel’s Moon Light Your Path
For almost as long as instrumental metal has existed, it has raised concerns about whether such bands are willing or even capable of hitting hard enough to appeal to their intended audiences, whether – lacking that primal focus of the human voice – instrumental bands would be more likely to succumb to their own tech-prog or atmospheric tendencies while surrendering accessibility. Certainly bands like Dysrhythmia and Tone, while definitely powerful and mind-bending, have tended to flirt on the edges of wider acceptance without truly convincing most lovers of bombastic darkness. Luckily, recent contributors like Sisters Of… and our current subjects Tempel have stumbled on an approach that achieves maximum visceral impact and will, hopefully, turn more listeners into true believers.
The choices that make this music more appealing might surprise anyone expecting instrumental metal to define its own idiosyncratic pathways. Instead of developing new musical languages, as many instrumental bands have attempted, Tempel turn to the well-trod trails of muscular prog à la Mastodon and modern black metal to make their potent, unforgiving point. It can be fun to imagine different vocal styles pasted onto Tempel’s sophomore rager in some vain attempt to calcify its genre, but doing so ignores the spirit of this music. Heavy music can be emotional, full of anger or self-righteous abandon or overwhelming beauty, a catalyst for extraordinary release, and Tempel explore these burgeoning possibilities in just under an hour.
The Arizona band’s indie-then-Prosthetic debut, On the Steps of the Temple, garnered conspicuous respect (especially from this site), and The Moon Lit Our Path trumps that album definitively in almost every way. Not every moment scintillates with combustive energy, but enough do to make the time between negligible. Tempel deftly skirt around audience exhaustion by alternating their methods for inciting the fist pump: white-hot blasting, aurora-inducing guitar solos (tucked deep enough in the mix to never feel self-aggrandizing), galloping rock that worships chords rather than melody, acoustic guitar and piano sections, wicked bass charges flanked by accent riffs, descending tremolo scales, dissonant marches… The recipe never goes stale, and it makes you glad there’s a whole other album of Tempel’s music you can fall into when Moon runs out of songs.
In a recent conversation, I suggested that most people’s reasons for flipping on the radio could be reduced to their enjoyment of catchy phrases with a memorable beat. These people aren’t really listening to music, because the satisfaction they seek out is just barely musical. The Moon Lit Our Path won’t rouse such people from aural lethargy, though hard rock enthusiasts will have no trouble finding a double-handful of memorable beats along the way. Tempel’s five epic tracks don’t sweep you along some predetermined route through fixed mundane or occult imagery. Without being programmed by lyrics or human vocal patterns, listeners can allow the music to carve through a world of their own choosing, one that changes with every spin. Take an hour away from the rigid angles of polite civilization, let the moon light your path…