Each year, there’s one instrumental album that simply takes them all. Last year, it was the somber and enfolding Telepathy with 12 Areas.. It’s time to introduce you to this year’s paragon: The Moon Lit Our Path by Tempel. What many instrumental albums lack, and not just within metal, is poise: the ability to revolve perfectly around a central theme or sound while reaching out to many places at once. That takes poise to stay balanced. Too often does the effort unravel itself, lose cohesion or spin out of control. This poise can be centered around musical talent, a certain theme or even a concept. Tempel tap into all of these but mostly into undeniable sense of timing. Within it, all things have their places and are rendered them perfectly.

We first encounter this extremely rare ability with the duo opening the album, “Carvings In The Door” and “The Moon Lit Our Path”. These are the heaviest of track here, leaning heavily on the black metal roots that Tempel are known for. The duo interacts brilliantly: although we deal with repeating passages backed by claustrophobic drumming, this bombastic opening to the album could have easily lost dynamic. Instead, subtle fluctuations are introduced with each repeat using the bass and a host of interesting leads.

The two tracks work as a whole, sounding like one piece. And indeed, when they finally come to their breath-taking close, a new movement within the album is ushered in. The next track uses its theme beautifully, the descent in “Descending Into The Labyrinth”, and acts as gatekeeper for what lies ahead. Where other bands would have decided to turn their sound even more towards the bass as the album progressed “lower”, Tempel introduce wild guitars, sans-distortion, and more melodic passages.

This move is further capitalized upon by the opening to the next segment, “Tomb Of The Ancients”. It beings with one of the most energetic passages in recent time, utilizing the same guitar antics of the previous track with a fury and passion that is hard to resist. The entire track is perhaps the fastest on the album, proving that at the bottom of their labyrinth, Tempel have prepared for us a maelstrom rather than crushing depths. The track continues with explosive riff after explosive riff, drawing more on early Mastodon than any black metal acts we might have cited.

All along these twists and turns, passages rounding in on themselves and doors that lead to places we wouldn’t have expected, Tempel never once lose us. We’ve already witnessed several surprises but we remain intent, charmed by the expertly executed drums, lulled by the mellifluous bass that fleshes everything out, enticed by the guitar work that is so natural that it almost seems like the obvious extension to the rest of the instruments.

 “Tomb Of The Ancients” ends with an ear scathing solo that leaves us expecting more of the same, a crescendo to end this already operatic effort. But the last track, “Dawn Breaks Over The Ruins”, has a different plan for us. It opens with a melodic passage that should scratch that mid-career Opeth itch you’ve been harboring. With a short sojourn back in the blast-beated blackened roots, “Dawn Breaks” quickly returns to the more melodious tendency introduced not two tracks before.

Switching between these two approaches, it creates a soundscape that leaves us flatfooted, unsure of where we’ll go next. Keeping us anchored are several leitmotifs introduced during it and repeated upon, stone marker that make the path we’re walking approachable and visible. Perfectly, naturally, the track ends on the crescendo we expected earlier, a soaring bottleneck of all that came before. When its last furious chords die, we are left with a simple melody, an aching ending to what was exquisite agony. Tempel have just danced a circle around us and they were so poised while doing so, so enticing with their flawless moves, that we didn’t even notice.

Tempel – The Moon Lit Our Path gets…

 

4.5/5

-EK

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