Tephra - _Tempel_
(Golden Antenna Records, 2011)
by: Aly Hassab El Naby (8 out of 10)
I can't help but think of years as if they are trophies that have to belong to a certain group come December 31st. Inasmuch as I've heard from 2011 releases, this year is looking like an evenly contested race between techy and/or blackish death metal and post-rock. But German post-metal group Tephra seems intent on introducing another contestant for the 2011 title. They have taken almost four years since the release of _A Modicum of Truth_ to put out its follow up _Tempel_ and, just like those cinnamon apples with powdered sugar I've just prepared, it turned out to be well worth the wait.

_Tempel_ pulsates intermittently rather than builds up tension continuously, which is an approach that's not used a lot in post-metal, not to the best of my knowledge at least. It could also deceive you into thinking that it's an instrumental album, which is the result of using the vocals in moderation so that the numerous instrumental passages that compound the effect of repetitions of all these chords and beats can find their permanent place in your memory. The guitars have gritty overdubs and thick distortions. Take "Chains and Pounding Hooves", which may remind you of Mastodon on _Crack the Skye_, but it doesn't sound like a watered down, half-assed Mastodon clone like what some bands may be doing in a few years -- quite the contrary, actually; it's a great example of the level of compositional maturity these blokes have reached.

Another sign of their improving musicianship is the instrumental "Agra", which races with above average tempo and guitar chords that continue to build tension for more than four minutes and ultimately fool the listener who was expecting a calm transition after them. "How the West Was Lost" sees the vocals come back for a rather throaty delivery and thicker guitar tones for two intense minutes, and then comes the calmer section which includes some mesmerizing lead guitar work. The atmospherics are highlighted on "City Immersed in Dust" more extensively than anywhere else on the album. The vocals take the back seat on "Seven Teeth" to leave some extra room for some crafty arrangements, only to come back with an Aaron Turner aura on "Deadman's Path".

The easily postulated conclusion from this letter of acclaim towards those fellows from Braunschweig is that they've spent their time since _A Modicum of Truth_ very wisely. _Tempel_ is very well done and will definitely appeal to fans of Mastodon, Intronaut, Isis and intelligent metal in general. I wouldn't go as far as shouting "album of the year" when we're only in the second quarter, but I do expect it to pop up on many "best of" lists when the world dusts off this hitherto disastrous, colourful and uproarious year.

Contact: http://www.myspace.com/tephramusic

(article published 5/6/2011)


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