On the Steps of the Temple

“Mountain,” the first cut from On the Steps of the Temple, bursts forth like a natural disaster. It’s cinematic and epic, the score to a looming apocalypse or a terrible revelation. It’s the sound of the earth shaking and crumbling loose to unleash something monstrously unnatural – some great and slumbering beast that cranes its smoking jaws to the surface.

Such ominous and imposing atmosphere is usually reserved for black metal, but this is far heavier. Temple, a duo from the sun-blasted furnace of Phoenix, AZ, crafts their crescendoes of dread from the relentless churn and chug of atmospheric sludge and the crashing swells of funeral doom. This is also an instrumental project, so Temple must awe you without the benefit of roaring, bellowed vocals – and they do so spectacularly on this 53-minute odyssey.

This sort of instrumental sludge/doom is not necessarily new. Pelican’s been doing it for years, but their music sounds to me like riff-oriented southern sludge, kind of like Baroness without the vocals. Other bands in the post-metal/sludge genre like Isis or Cult of Luna work long instrumental passages into their songs to create a steady ebb and flow between crush and calm, and even peak to moments of quiet and ethereal reflection.

There’s none of that here – Temple is just unrelenting terror and awe in massive and melodic form. When there are quieter moments, they’re more like the last spasms of collapsing rubble, or a settling cloud of dust – an after-effect of destruction that’s perfectly integrated with the rest of the composition, as opposed to the abrupt switch-up that is so common to the genre. Only one track here, the lush and Earth-like “Final Years” truly stops and takes in the aftermath. The melodic, epic collision of post-metal, sludge and doom that started with “Mountain” continues later with the smoky and vaguely Southern twang of “Avaritia,” and then crests with the album’s climactic title track. “On the Steps of the Temple” evokes a brutal, grueling climb to a terrifying summit, where you’ll be nearly hurled off of the edge by blastbeat winds. This is the only blackened touch on the entire album, and it’s a smart and well-chosen addition.

As for the other tracks, “Rising from the Abyss” is probably the most familiar to fans of aforementioned bands like Cult of Luna, Kruger or (the recently disbanded) Iron Thrones. “The Mists That Shroud the Peaks” is quite a different beast entirely – a 10-minute toppling monolith of funeral doom that, while sonically impressive, is not as melodic or diverse as the other compositions, and so it’s less evocative as well.

I’ve had mixed results with instrumental albums over the years – vocals are such a powerful and cathartic emotional element, and without them, the compositions must stand on their own. If they wander too much, it can sometimes be hard to stay engaged for the entire ride. Temple surmounts these issues with this epic, compelling and monstrous album, and with lengthy compositions that hurtle by in what seems like half the time. This talented duo is a revelation, and On the Steps of the Temple is one of the year’s best metal albums. Don’t miss it.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
October 4th, 2012


  1. Commented by: Odovacar

    I definitely like this album and I’m glad that they hail from Phoenix! The metal scene here is pretty abysmal.

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