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Temtris - Masquerade 4/5

Reviewed: 7-11-08


1. Deadline
2. Prisoner of the day
3. Masquerade
4. Dark messiah
5. Lifeshell
6. Kiss of death
7. Inocence surrendered
8. The hunger
9. Prophecy
10. Ashes and pain

One would be forgiven for assuming that Temtris must be a death or black metal band from their nearly illegible band logo, but they are nothing of the sort. Instead, this experienced Australian quartet specializes in high-quality traditional heavy metal not a million miles removed from that of their countrymen in Pegazus and Dungeon. 'Masquerade' marks their sophomore full-length CD, coming on the heels of 2003's 'Threshold', the availability of which is apparently quite limited outside of Australia.

The Pegazus/Dungeon comparisons might be a bit misleading. Surely there are elements of that sound in Temtris's music, but there are many differences, too. This band is female fronted. Singer Genevieve Rodda showcases an extremely powerful set of pipes, with clear, strong vocals that call to mind acts like Phoenix Reign, Twilight Odyssey, Ignitor, or even Benedictum; indeed, Rodda may well be the most accomplished of the outstanding vocalists in this "family" of female fronted traditional metal acts. But it would not be completely accurate to lump Temtris in with that category of band either, inasmuch as they make liberal use of the growling vocals of guitarist Llew Smith for accent and contrast. To be sure, Rodda handles the lion's share of the singing, but Smith's growls account for probably 10-20% of the vocal lines, sometimes including even choruses (see "Dark messiah"). Depending on one's perspective, Smith's infernal bellows either add depth and texture to the music, or they detract from the otherwise straightahead traditional metal nature of 'Masquerade'. Personally I'm not crazy about them, but they're not massive detractors, either. Another vital element to Temtris's style that must be mentioned is the excellent dueling twin guitars of band co-founder Anthony "Fox" Roberts and Smith, both of whom are fine players who work extremely well together in the riffing, soloing, and harmony departments. In the slightly sanitized words of Bruce Willis in the first 'Die Hard' flick, add it all up and I don't know what it means, but you've got some bad-ass perpetrators and they're here to stay.

Unlike many of today's acts who feel the compulsion to stuff a CD to its capacity, even if that means diluting quality along the way, Temtris have prudently served up only their grade-A material in a lean 41-minute CD that feels like it passes in the blink of an eye. There are 10 tracks, including a short, effective intro and an entertaining instrumental, leaving 8 proper songs. There are no weak links (although "Lifeshell" does drag a tad in places with its plodding down-tuned parts, but even there a killer flamenco guitar break saves the day), but I've picked out 3 favorites. "Masquerade" begins as a peppy, double-bass driven monster before mutating into a crunchy midtempo beast when the vocals kick in, finally ending with a soft keyboard fade-out (one of the few times keys are noticeable, honestly). "Kiss of death" also offers plenty of speed and a phenomenal vocal performance from Rodda, with some hugely catchy twin guitar interplay, to boot. Finally, closer "Ashes and Rain" settles into a marching-off-to-war midtempo pace before accelerating in the solo section, and delivers an absolute 5-star chorus with Rodda's soaring vocals, Smith's accenting growl and a mesmerizing twin-guitar melody. This is traditional metal at its finest, folks.

Modesty may not be high amongst Temtris's list of virtues, judging by the scantily-clad computer-generated warrior/damsel that serves as their cover art or their proclamation "Australia's finest female fronted heavy metal outfit" that's currently splashed across their Myspace page. But modesty's overrated. Temtris are an excellent band, and 'Masquerade' is arguably the strongest platter of female fronted true heavy metal music to have assaulted my ear canals in 2008. Let's hope that main writer Roberts is crazy like a Fox, and that he and the immensely talented Rodda lead Temtris back for a triumphant all-important 3rd CD in the near future.




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