Tempel are an insanely talented Arizona-based instrumental metal/post rock duo consisting of Ryan Wenzel (Guitars, Keys) and Rich Corle (Drums), who first joined forces way back in 2003, although On The Steps Of The Temple is apparently only their debut. To that end, I’m really not sure if they actually spent the past 10 years coming up with the songs on this album or if they might have self-released some material between their formation and this Prosthetic Records debut. In any case, what I can tell you is that each of the five tracks on this 53 minute album are fantastic. So, even if it did take them 10 years to write them, I certainly could not fault them for that. That said, I have a feeling these songs were written more recently because they very much sound modern and nothing like what was going on in the metal world circa 2003. Of course, certain songs might have their moments where they sound a bit retro, but they sound modern when you listen to each of the songs in their entirety. Take “Rising From The Abyss,” for example. There are moments when it grooves along like old, bluesy Black Sabbath and times when it sounds like modern sludge metal, but the song overall is nothing short of fresh and vibrant. Rather than being a band who borrow heavily from the past, they’re a forward-thinking duo who simply give occasional nods to the masters. And when they give those nods, they actually do so on the same level as those artists they’re inspired by. Normally, when a band is influenced by another band, their take on that style is not as good as the band they’re paying homage to. That’s definitely not the case here. “Final Years” might begin like a downtempo Metallica song that would be equally at home on Justice or The Black Album, but it proves to be on par with any of the songs it might have been inspired by.
While I can understand the label calling Tempel’s music post rock, if I had to categorize it I would have to label it doom metal, as that’s what they most sound like to my ears with their often plodding drums, crushing guitar riffs, foreboding atmospherics and overall hypnotic vibes. They’re clearly inspired by other types of artists — everything from Pentagram to Queens Of The Stone Age, I suspect — but, ultimately, at the end of the day, I’d feel most comfortable dubbing On The Steps Of The Temple a doom metal album. A brilliant doom metal magnum opus. And I have a feeling that Ryan and Rich would not be bothered by that.
When it comes to instrumental metal albums, all too often every song on an album will sound the same, making the album get pretty boring before you’ve even reached the halfway mark. Or the opposite will ring true and all of the songs will sound so different from each other that they clash and the record doesn’t feel like a nice and cohesive album. Fortunately, Tempel’s music doesn’t make either of those mistakes. Each of their colorful songs seems to have its own story to tell, even if there are no lyrics/vocals. But they don’t sound so different from each other that they don’t work well as an album. On the contrary, On The Steps Of The Temple is a super solid record that feels as though each of its songs are different pieces to a puzzle that fit together perfectly to create one amazing picture that simply consists of the various stories the individual songs tell.