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Friday, August 19, 2016

Tempelheks - Serpents, Gods and Men

Tempelheks are a band from Oslo that carry the sounds between the psychedelic and the doom metal approach. Since their formation back in 2013 as originally as a solo project by HS with the Red Forest EP as it got picked up by a Stoner/Doom YouTube channel. It would later had the opportunity to write the self-titled debut album two years ago. Alongside HS, it considers Andreas Prestby on Drums and Percussion, Espen Sande Larsen on Bass and Backing Vocals, and Sindre Ohman on Guitar.

The influences range from Thin Lizzy, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, King Crimson, and Pentagram. Their follow up album this year entitled Serpents, Gods and Men released on the Heksekunst Productions label which is Norway’s answer to Sweden’s label Crusher Records and Lee Dorrian’s label, Rise Above Records (U.K.), is inspired by the works of Robert E. Howard’s fantasy universe Hyboria.

Not only the influences of the band’s but there’s also Electric Wizard and bits of a doomier version of Mastodon thrown into the mix. Just close your eyes and imagine it is 1971 all over again and this album came out on the swirling Vertigo label and put it on your turntable with your Koss Pro4AAs headphones and play it loud. Now while I’m not crazy about Robert E. Howard’s work, their second album is an homage to the man’s work and honoring not just Hyboria, but the legacy of Conan the Barbarian.

For me as a geek who loves both Science Fiction and Fantasy as a kid growing up, I was completely surprised and I found a very interesting take of Howard’s stories told through a heavier and doomier approach. Opener, The Serpent Citadel has haunting lyrics, dooming bass lines, slowed-down groove, and a clapping section as if the whips are hammered down upon the heroes being tortured by Thulsa Doom.   

The Fall of Man sees Ohman going into a darker territory as he puts his guitar through the wah-wah pedal and creates these ominous atmosphere followed by Larsen’s bass and Prestby’s drumming with a calmer tempo as the band head into the aftermath of the battlefield with a gory scenery that it was gruesome and disturbing for what just happened. Awakening is a short space-rock instrumental as Sindre channels the essence of Ash Ra Tempel as it segues into Come Atlantis.

It’s the conqueror’s tale as the rhythm of the 4/4 time signature starts into a walking and heavier section before it changes beats into a terrifying and thunderous end as An Ancient Wizard has mid-fast tempos. Featuring a militant section between the drums and rhythm/riff-like guitars, as the lyrics really shows Howard’s storytelling but in the styles of Candlemass and Black Sabbath before twisting it in a cosmic end in a Manuel Gottsching-sque finale.

The Dawn of Man is a 2-minute spooky instrumental as Ohman goes through the heart of the milky-way with psychedelic hard rock melody improvisation atmosphere before landing back on a planet of the Blood of Acheron. It is a fallen world that has never been able to conquer any world and destroyed by the Hyborian Empire. And the music itself captures the fall of it’s city as you can imagine it is now a hellish world that is a place you do not want to visit.

Now during my first listen of the band’s music, it didn’t capture me because I didn’t know how to put it. But then I had to listen to it again and it grabbed me, and then the third time, it is a very interesting and haunting follow-up to their self-titled debut album. Now I have to admit, I’m not crazy about Tempelheks’ music, but Serpents, Gods and Men is not so bad, but pretty good.

I hope they would continue to do more in the future and see what lies ahead for more brainstorming momentum to continue the legacy of Robert E. Howard’s stories or where they will come up with next. If you love the Doom, Psychedelic, and Space Rock voyages filled with the stories of Hyboria, then delve into the world of Serpents, Gods and Men.

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