In a previous life, I was a cruel, exploitative landlord, despised by peasants. Ryan Wenzel and Rich Corle, who are now the band Tempel, were at that time a pair of dashing troubadours who fell in love with my black-eyed daughters. They tried to abscond, but my jack-booted thugs caught up with them, and then I had everybody burned at the stake. The way I figured this out is that two months ago, Tempel told Decibel that they will not play concerts. Wenzel said this was because “we have full-time jobs and families.” The actual reason is they knew that once I heard The Moon Lit Our Path, denying me the chance to see them play live would be the perfect revenge.
Two themes recur in much of the writing about The Moon Lit Our Path: A) surprise at how much fun it is even though it’s fully instrumental and B) appreciation for the diversity of its influences. As much as those reasonable observations have been restated, I wonder if their importance has been understated. Almost every moment on the record reminded me of another band, but never because it sounded like another band (except maybe Opeth, once in a while — and there are lots of bands that sound much more like Opeth, because they are trying much harder to sound like Opeth). Tempel don’t just integrate different musical influences. They integrate idioms and gestures. Every time they switch off between chugging grooves, atmospheric piano pieces and psychedelic rock melodies, they’re never so much playing within any genre or tradition as they are appropriating a recognizable musical expression in order to make an intelligible musical statement. I think it’s what you call composing. And every time Tempel does it, what they say makes way more sense than any word ever did.
Listening to The Moon Lit Our Path is less like listening to one of those longwinded “look-how-good-I-am-at-guitar” instrumental numbers on an 80s thrash album and more like listening to a massively talented modern string quartet where all four of them have been mummified and chopped in half by a Sumerian death cult so that the high priest could sow the first violinist’s left half to the cellist’s right half using the thread of a chthonic caterpillar in order to resurrect the completed abomination with the summoned spirit of Ryan Wenzel, and then they made Rich Corle by combining half of the viola player with a cybernetic roboframe in the Grand Forge of the Netherworld (yes, this metaphor does not work out well for those on second violin — sorry, guys). By which I mean, if you like listening to string quartets who play really articulate, intentional, highly controlled music, but growly metal vocals scare you, evil falsetto vocals annoy you or attempts at clean singing by men with ripped-off sleeves concern you, then Tempel might just be the band that turns you into a metalhead.
Listen to or obtain The Moon Lit Our Path on Bandcamp.