Bands are tempestuous entities; changing membership can be a smooth transition or a total nightmare, yielding new sounds or forcing an established unit back to the drawing board. Temples On Mars have gone one step further, with a lineup change resulting in them stepping away from their old moniker to stick their flag into the fresh soil of this self-titled record.
Miles away from the thinner environs of their previous incarnations’ album ‘Kingdom Of Fear’, Temples On Mars is a much grander, heavier record. Taken as a whole, it seems to dwell at a crossroads of post-rock, mature metalcore, festival singalongs and tempered soundscaping, sounding very much like a band keen to step forward with their firmest foot.
Opening with the swooshy arabesque Bon Voyage, the stage is set for a big-sounding, progressively-minded album, and as the tight spit of Gods & Kings gets pumping, this writer hears splinters of metallic contemporaries Brutai and the high-register vocals of Cynic, with a hint of Muse‘s pomp, though none of their breathless silliness. The bass sounds like vulcanized rubber; taut, plundering beef, well-locked with the able drums.
The concern here is that, having changed personnel, name, and sound, Temples On Mars have made a big statement by putting a full album out so quickly – and this is a full album. At a hair over an hour, dropping something this size when you’ve changed so much is a bold statement, especially with 7 of the 12 tracks over the 5 minute mark.
That being said, there’s plenty in that plenty. The clean/distorted vocals are strong and confident, the effects sound like there’s a keys player roaming about when there definitely isn’t, and each song behaves like a self-contained journey, with the sequencing of the record clearly designed to flow a certain way.
There’s catchiness out the door here, and it’s wonderful to hear such an oft-maligned aspect of heavy music handled with maturity. So In Love With Your Own Drug rumbles and roars in equal measure, and even manages to make ‘woah-ohs’ sound valid and worthwhile, though kicking single When Gods Collide has more teeth and nails. The widescreen ascent of Afraid Of Living has a definite character in which the band sound very comfortable, leaning as it does more towards the prog that the band seem to collectively care for.
This is the sticking part of this record. Working out who you are when you used to be someone else isn’t an overnight process, and there’s moments here where it’s clear who Temples On Mars could be, if they give themselves the space. Tracks like Suicide By Tiger show how majestic they can be when they take their foot off the gas, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that trimming this back to 6 or 7 tracks would have delivered a diverse, potent record with abundant ideas, showing not only what the band had to offer but a hint of where they’re going.
On no level is this a poor record, far from it. Weighty without compromising the clarity the band were clearly going for, the songs are solid and well thought-out with some top harmonies, and there’s more than enough here for the fan who demands a bit more nuance from their music. That this new band will blossom into something splendid, there is no doubt. Full of promise.
PRE-ORDER TEMPLES ON MARS HERE VIA PRIMORDIAL RECORDS. AVAILABLE APRIL 6TH.