BY JAMES STEMPLE, STAFF WRITER
Prepare to take a trip through pulsing colors with British psychedelic rock band Temples through their newest album, “Volcano,” which was released by Heavenly Records March 3 of this year. Formed in Kettering, England, in 2012, this quartet’s sophomore album plunges into a familiar path of psych-pop that’s grown in popularity the past few years.
The band is made up of James Bagshaw, lead vocalist and lead guitar; Adam Smith, rhythm guitarist and keyboardist; Tom Walmsley, bass guitarist; and Sam Toms, drummer. With the release of their first album, Temples rocketed to stardom, becoming a fan favorite.
The album is a move away from their 2014 debut album “Sun Structures,” and the neo-psychedelic sound that made them an instant favorite among the purveyors of out-of-this-world rock. Their debut blended rock from the late 60s and early 70s with more modern sounds to produce a mind-melting callback to the present.
With the release of “Volcano,” Temples marks a path toward a more distinct sound exclusive to them. Recorded at their home studio, the newest album still holds ideals familiar to their roots—and, of course, their counterculture inspirations—but paints the music in a way specific to them.
“Volcano” opens with the volcanic “Certainty,” which was released as a single back in September of 2016, setting the tone for the album as an upbeat mix of rock and pop and calling back somewhat to their first album. Whether or not it’s similar to the style of the first album, it sure hooks you in for what turns into a wonderful ride.
In songs like “All Join In” and “(I Want to Be Your) Mirror,” Bagshaw’s voice glides alongside the music as if his voice were an instrument on its own. The flowy guitar riffs and groovy drum beats accompanied by synths will make you fall through time and space.
The album floats ever-so-more into psych-pop with songs like “Born into the Sunset” and “Oh the Saviour.” They are still familiar in sound to other songs in the album, yet distinct in a way.
“How Would You Like to Go?” has listeners slow down from the upbeat feel of the album’s first half and think about death. It asks questions like “Would you want to know?” in echoing lyrics, accompanied by intense psychedelic tension. It’s quite the transition between the two halves of the album.
Indeed, the second half travels further down the path away from Temples’ rock roots. “Open Air” feels far more like an 80s inspired rock song than the psychedelic delight fans are used to. And “In My Pocket” is just… weird. A low point in an album may be someone else’s high point, however.
“Celebration” follows down the rabbit hole, continuing with more pop-influenced sound. The poppy, upbeat… well, beat pulls a smile across your face despite the departure from its rock origins. It’s almost like Temples wants their fans to celebrate the newfound sound.
Synthesizers dominate the track “Mystery of Pop,” which—you guessed it—explores further a new land of psych-pop. The upswing of “Roman Godlike Man” feels more familiar to Temples, and begins to blend rock and pop, getting a bit weird along the way—though there’s never anything wrong with that.
The bookend song sitting at track no. 12 is “Strange or Be Forgotten.” It is a wonderful meeting between psychedelic rock and psychedelic pop, between “Sun Structures” and “Volcano.” The song feels like a psychedelic adventure atop a dragon in the sky breathing rainbows. It beckons its listener to be anything but normal: be strange or be forgotten. It ties up the album with a pretty bow, combining elements of two sounds.
A band like Temples that had such success on their debut album has a lot to live up to. Luckily, “Volcano” steps up to the plate and shows that this band can hold their own and not depend on the sounds of the past for a great album. No album is perfect: “Volcano” has its weak points for sure, but it still manages to blend pop and rock into a marvelous middle ground of psychedelic music.