|Musical Style: Darkwave Metal||Produced By: Dan Yohann|
|Record Label: Rotting Corpse||Country Of Origin: Australia|
|Year Released: 2009||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 44:28|
The music industry may be struggling, but there’s no lack of need – or support – for bands that are not afraid to approach their art from a different standpoint. And such is the case with Perth, Australia based Templar.
Templar got its start in 2006 with the six song EP Witch Hunt prior to following up two years later by independently releasing its full length debut Preaching To The Perverted. The group returns on Rotting Corpse Records in 2009 with its second full length offering, Dark Circus.
Templar describes itself as “darkwave metal”. What I hear on Dark Circus is a joining of Gothic and industrial metal with some traditional and melodic metal influences. The occasional modern touch makes its presence felt as well. Yes, a variety of styles presented – and this is where that difference in question comes in – but what we have in Templar is a band willing to step outside the box and take some risks in the process. The end result is a work certain to appeal to those with a wide range of tastes in the metal and hard rock genres. In other words, if you are willing to take some risks yourself (and give Templar the chance it deserves) you could end up very richly rewarded.
Dark Circus features an even blend of heavy hitting up-tempo pieces and those taking a more melodic and mid-paced approach. Energetic sluggers “Dark Circus”, “Black Scar”, “Greenback Nation” and “New Years Revolution” are unremitting with their power and aggression in bringing an almost punk-like anger. Yet, on “Apostates Regret”, “Fatalism” and “Sweet Misery”, when Templar smoothes things out and slows the tempo, the overall feel is surprisingly melodic. “House Of Burning”, at the same time, almost approaches ballad territory.
It also must be noted how Templar seamlessly adds “news bytes” and “sound clips” throughout the project, often placed at the start of a song. These, many of which you will recognize, serve to drive home the powerful message of this “band of believers”. Along this line, lyrics are dark, introspective and written from a “Christian worldview”. They are also open to interpretation; hence, the lack of detail regarding the lyrics in the track by track breakdown.
Vocalist Toad, with his blend of mid-ranged clean vocals and extreme screaming, helps define the Templar sound. He mostly trends towards the clean side of things – and does a good job mixing in some lower register grit and angst – but adds the periodic scream or extreme growl for background or co-lead vocal purposes. Now, I am not a fan of extreme vocals (in any form) but cannot help but feel they align well with the musical happenings at hand, with the main reason they are not overdone or rarely become the main focal point of a song. The lone exception is “Institution”, which, as a result of the extreme vocals taking on a “lead role”, ends up a bit too heavy handed and overbearing for my tastes.
One of the projects surprises is guitarist Dan Yohann. The best way to describe his playing would be a slightly out of control Chris Impellitteri on a runaway freight train. Yes, the performance here is that impressive. While he stands out as a soloist with a fluid and all out speed driven style, it is as on rhythm guitar in which he ultimately shines. Many of the riffs he lays down are so dark and heavy – such as on “Dark Circus” and “Black Scar” – but when stretching on “Sweet Misery” he can nail some tight as it gets guitar harmony or head in a neo-classical direction for “New Years Revolution”. “Apostates Regret” even finds him taking a bluesy direction.
Production values are top of the line in reflecting a big budget feel.
Track By Track
“Media Whore” is a short (:38) introductory piece upheld by narration and television channels being changed in the background.
The albums title track starts slowly and ominously before a pummeling rhythm guitar kicks in. The song gradually picks up in pace to a storm of double bass, raging ahead in bristling fashion as the way is paved for a caustically driven chorus backed by extreme vocals. Yohann really shows off his skills here lead guitar wise.
As already referenced, I find “Institution” the lone skip button here. Again, it is the “growled” vocals taking on a lead role that ruins it for me, although I can see those into extreme vocal forms embracing this. The song, otherwise, is an aggressive heavy hitter that, with the vocals being the exception, is solid musically.
“Black Scar” jumps out of the gate fast and furious to sledgehammer riffs and double kick drum action in abundance. The song maintains an almost punk-like angst the rest of the way, delivering a focused intensity almost certain to send shivers down your spine. A scorching stretch of lead guitar bounces between the left and right channel.
Things head in a more melodic direction with “Apostates Regret”. While this one might lack some of the verve of those preceding it, it proves surprisingly accessible – do I dare say that? – with its catchy chorus and clean vocals playing a prevailing role. It also must be noted the bluesy feel to some of the guitar work here.
“Fatalism” sustains the melodic proclivity. This one brings a slight modern feel while still allowing the bands trademark heaviness and energy to stand out. Again, clean vocals lead the way with some distant “growls” highlighting the backdrop.
“Sweet Misery” opens its first two minutes to some tight as it gets (and every bit as catchy) guitar harmony. The song evens out upon reaching its first verse only to pick up in pace prior to marching its way to a decisive chorus commanded by a pummeling rhythm section. Closing out the final minute is some aggressive narration.
Ballad territory is almost approached on “House Is Burning”. By far the albums mellowest, the song proves moody but restless at the same time with its near leisurely tempo and emotionally charged vocal performance. No extreme vocals here. Lead guitar work aligns with the mood-filled environs.
“Greenback Nation” represents a return to a heavier direction. This one finds the guttural screams returning in full force – but playing a supporting role and not to the point of overbearing – while allowing for an in your face guitar sound and machine-like low end. Chorus is fantastic with its supporting cast of bigger than life backing vocals.
A neo-classical feel can be found on “New Years Revolution”. Yohann really stretches here, adding to the up-tempo milieu with his blinding riffs and harmonies and lightning-like lead work. I might be out of line but the song almost brings to mind Impellitteri attempting to achieve a Gothic/industrial sound- and it works to perfection. Albums best song.
Templar might be approaching things from a different standpoint on Dark Circus but has produced a very worthwhile work in the process. Yes, if you enjoy Gothic and industrial metal – in their varying capacities – then by all means pick this up. That said, there is enough variety here in terms of traditional and melodic metal influences (backed by some raging punk-like anger) that fans of other hard music genres should find a lot to like in Dark Circus as well. The bands powerful lyrics and natural raw energy only adds to the albums appeal.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Media Whore” (:36), “Dark Circus” (5:46), “Institution” (5:17), “Black Scar” (3:53), “Apostates Regret” (4:01), “Fatalism” (3:28), “Sweet Misery” (5:20), “House Is Burning” (4:14), “Greenback Nation” (4:25), “New Years Revolution” (5:40), “Dark Circus (Reprise) (1:42)
Toad – Lead Vocals & Screams
Dan Yohann – Guitars
Rafael – Bass & Synthesizers
Symon - Drums