Tempel – Tempel (Album Review)

Known for his work over the last decade plus as Kvelertak’s drummer, Kjetil Gjermundrød has assembled a side project called Tempel, and their self-titled debut is due on Friday, March 22nd through Norwegian Indie label Jansen Records.

Put together by Gjermundrød along with his brothers Espen (guitar) and Inge (vocals, bass), as well as childhood friend Andreas Espolin Johnson (guitar), together they create nine tracks of unbridled energy. Unfocused would be too strong a word, but untethered might do instead; these tracks run the gamut from Hardcore to Black and Death Metal (separately), almost crossing into Darkwave and straight-ahead Pop along the way. All that in mind, if their parent project Kvelertak is Black-n-Roll, then Tempel is something akin to Blackened Punk, or even Blackened Progressive.

Leaving aside these inevitable comparisons specifically, the one area Tempel continues with force is the mixing of seemingly converse genres; their well is seemingly deeper than the one mined by Kvelertak. For example, “Confusion” manages to jump from danceable Mallcore to ethereal Pop to a nearly NWOBHM progression at its midway point. The chorus seems to consist solely of the song’s title, amplified with multiple voices drifting off into space, with the closing moments of the song structured in support of multiple near-solos on guitar.

Opener “Vendetta” artfully mixes Hardcore vocals with lighter aspects of Melodic Death Metal, whereas “Wolves” is a modern take on what the anger of early Sex Pistols might sound like polished and rehearsed in the studio, then blasted through a portable Bluetooth speaker outside the gates of Buckingham Palace. “Uninvited” takes a bit of a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, swiping influences from the likes of Far and early Deftones along the way.

Then there is “Afterlife,” which starts with a solo worthy of a hockey arena warm-up song, but then drags the listener down a path of nineties Hardcore, making a stop to clean things up with a few tries at a full-band chorus. The arena vibe returns later with a powerful crowd-pleasing riff, during which it is easy to imagine the entire band rocking and head-banging while the two guitarists swing their arms in proper Pete Townshend fashion.

Later on the main riff within “Forest Cemetery” combines, somehow, an exotic Eastern vibe with a Country-Western twang; the latter influence is helpfully supported by the guimbarde used at the song’s open. As the riff fades in and out of attention, aggressive vocal progressions and blasting drums give the song a Black Metal feel halfway through, while the grumbling bass becomes more and more prominent with each rotation.

The band veers into stiff Progressive territory with “Torches,” where even the vocals are unusually sparse, and somewhat serious when they do appear. At six minutes, the track is the longest on the album, and it veers into several directions, with the ending moving from nearly balladic depths to the heights of frantic guitar solos, with the frenzied vocals to match. Finally, the relatively solemn closer, titled simply “Farewell,” alternates between blast beats and screaming to a few bars of what can almost pass for Easy Listening.

Some listeners may get tired of the constant genre swapping, but the effort put forth by Tempel to merge these disparate themes is seemingly genuine, and backed up by requisite skill. While the album is an enjoyable listen, its tracks have trouble sticking around after the record ends, save for the arty “Forest Cemetery.” Nevertheless, the spins themselves are enjoyable, and Cryptic Rock gives Tempel 3 out of 5 stars. 

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