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Temple is a two-man effort from Phoenix, Arizona. Self-described as death/doom with a hint of black, this band supplies its listeners with instrumental-only tracks of refined and well-paced metal, without leaving our ears feeling empty with the absence of vocals. Their debut full-length, “On the Steps of the Temple”, is roughly fifty-three minutes of musical excellence, complete with varied solos, powerful riffs, and well-paced drumming. The sonic landscape we get by listening to tracks like "Rising from the Abyss" is purely gorgeous, and the dark mood established by album opener "Mountain" sticks with the sound of the record the whole way through, adding greatly to the ambience. While certainly not a flawless record by any means, the presentation and execution of “On the Steps...” has something a lot of bands don't: dedication.
The mixing of the album, while nothing spectacular, is paramount in adding to the mysterious mood. Something about each strum of the guitars and every hit of the high hats sets off a subtle, almost crunchy aural effect in the background, creating a deep atmosphere that only reveals itself if you focus in on it. This powerful tool is only amplified by the basswork, which serves to both boost the presence of the guitars and add greatly to the subtlety of the ambience. Part of the reason that this dynamic works so well is the effort put into the mastering. It sounds organic - another thing that many bands unfortunately miss out on - and the sound of the record flows very naturally. The drumming, while composed of mostly hat hits and bass kicks, sounds incredible with the blackened guitars laid over it. The individual instruments might not sound very dynamic or varied, but the way they mesh is part of the album's grace. Every aspect of “On the Steps...” feels like it belongs there, and though the compositions could use more variety, the execution of what ideas are there is nearly flawless. The dedication found in Temple's presentation is hard to match.
Some of the charm found in the album is how it pulls you in. The fast melodies and explosive drumming on "Mountain" allow you to explore the most high-octane sides of Temple, and before you know it, you'll be listening to the slower, doomier parts of "The Mist That Shrouds the Peaks". As that crunchy atmosphere persists, you'll be taken on an aural journey through the tastefully-sluggish melodies, the rampantly-fast riffs, and everything in between; when the solo of "Avaritia" kicks in, you'll know you made the right choice in giving Temple a try. As with many of the other memorable moments of “On the Steps...”, "Avaritia"'s solo combines a powerful, blackened melody with a strong background riff before leading into a calming, subtle, keyboard-laden harmony. Most of the keyboards are incredibly subtle, but their influences are instrumental in elevating the mix and taking the sound to another level of depth. Temple’s efforts to make their instruments flow harmoniously do not go unnoticed, as even the most subtle of changes make a detectable difference.
By the end of the record, “On the Steps of the Temple” is a powerful listen, featuring both rampaging speeds and fantastic melodies. Small touches like the keyboards, in combination with the atmospheric hat hits and guitar strums, set “On the Steps...” apart from contemporary albums, and reinforces the idea that Temple are dedicated to bringing both powerful and beautiful music to the ears of listeners. Their structuring isn't exactly top-notch, and the instrumentation can seem unchanging at times, but you will never question how Temple's sound meshes - because they made damn sure that it worked, and that it worked well. From the vicious speeds of the title track to the haunting melodies of "Final Years", it is clear that this duo from Arizona have a very obvious talent for crafting a quality soundscape. I, for one, can't wait to see what they bring us next.