Review Summary: Like a dream with sweet aftertaste: trippy, mellow but already half forgotten
To me, Temples is that one artist I have chosen to follow, representative of the new wave of retro-rock and neopsychedelia. I have to admit that these genres are uncharted waters to me and probably wouldn't bother with Temples as well, had it not been for their live performance as a support act for Muse, in 2016. The Greek sun in July can be less merciful than a king killing his children to secure his position on the throne. The atmosphere is dry and suffocating, especially when there are thousands of people packed together. So, while the audience was waiting for the water pumps to spray them - a minimum act to avoid people fainting - Temples got onstage and started playing. I was dizzy, thirsty and the heat made the whole experience transcendental. Listening to A Question isn't Answered under these circumstances would bind me with Temples so I had to check them out after the event.
Their debut album, Sun Structures, managed to keep my attention in an ambient environment, with all the magic of a live performance vanished. It was great to see a band mimicking so well the first steps of rock music while still having a distinctive sound. It was only natural I would be interested to see what their sophomore album would offer. The single, Certainty, which is also the opener, had that soaring rhythm and catchiness I wanted, so my expectations were high.
Volcano is less aggressive than its predecessor. The band opted for a mellower sound and the synthesizer is the dominant instrument, with all songs bathed in the surreal, shiny, glittery light of it. Most distinctive harmonies and phrases are played by the synth and sometimes that works really well, such as on songs like Born into the Sunset and Mystery of Pop, while on others it seems like the guitar would have been a much better decision. The vocals are nicely distorted and high pitched, creating a dream like scenery of carefree floating.
There are moments that sound like The Beatles would, if they were still around. Oh The Saviour and In My Pocket are great examples of that. Their common characteristic is the soft, weightless guitar intro, which evolves into an electronic trippy serenade.
The ''black sheep'' of Volcano is undeniably How Would You Like to Go". While it the same approach for soundscaping, the tone is undeniably darker and more ominous, like the fever dream of a hippy. The tempo slows down, the drumming is even more hidden in the background and the several sound effects create an eerie picture of a conversation with a cryptic prophet. It's a clear high light and I do hope it gains the recognition it deserves.
Having said all that, the force that restrains the album is the predictability and repetition. Without a doubt it is a great album for summer nights in bars with neon signs, a road trip along the coastline and I bet there will be many potheads releasing some steam to this album, sitting on couches dressed in psychedelic clothing, while Led Zeppelin posters hang on the walls. But that can't hide the unmemorable personality of Volcano. It requires many listens to grasp the songs and even then, it is a puzzle to understand why a song unfolds the way it does: constantly progressing but without getting anywhere.
Volcano is not a mediocre album, but it could very easily be one. There are certain merits and each fan or listener will find something to go back to, but other than that, the album hasn't much to offer. Temples are young and with talent and have already released two albums and four EPs, their hard work is not put into question. But, they have to try harder if they want to break the barriers of modern music reality and actually leave a footprint similar to that of the heroes they so obviously adore.