Album Reviews

Temperance – The Earth Embraces Us All

I tend to follow a considerable number of female-fronted symphonic metal bands. This branch of the genre appeals to me a lot and there’s usually a huge amount of captivating, passionate music if you know where to look. Take Temperance, for example. The band is a true rising star on the modern symphonic metal scene, and they’re remarkably prolific too: 2014 saw the release of their self-titled album, which I liked but thought it was a bit rough at the edges; they’ve put out another full length record in 2015 called Limitless which somehow slipped under my radar; and in 2016 they’re already back in full force and all their glory with their third studio output, The Earth Embraces Us All. And more importantly, for all these unusually frequent releases, you can always expect to get music of remarkable quality from this band.

This time, the Italian quartet presents us with an hour of excellent symphonic music. Yet it’s not so simple to get the genre right in this case: the progressive elements are more striking and noticeable on The Earth Embraces Us All than, say, on the band’s debut. Let’s see what one of the band’s lead singers, Chiara Tricarico, had to say about this album:

“This is without any doubt the most complex and mature album we’ve ever done. It basically gave us the chance to add many new elements to our music. Most of the songs in our previous albums were short and straight to the point, these new ones are longer and stylistically challenging, it takes time to fully grasp their essence. ‘The Earth Embraces Us All’ is the natural evolution of our musical path, we are very proud of it, I think it represents us well!” 

And it’s easy to agree with her about all this. With eleven tracks and 60 minutes, the album has enough time and ideas to explore the different genres and influences present on it. Chiara Tricarico has enough room to truly unleash her vocals on the album’s most intense moments, yet when the music calls for gentle and warm tones, she does it flawlessly (and I think I may like those sections even more than the powerful and intense ones!). Marco Pastorino nails both the riffs and the solos and provides a necessary contrast to Chiara’s vocal performance with his reckless screams, which remind of Devin Townsend. This is yet another advantage of this record for me – I’m mostly not too fond of the usual “beauty and the beast” setup in some bands, where the male singer does those deep guttural growls. Screams go way better with me. Luca Negro also gets lots of moments to shine due to the progressive nature of the album, especially in the quieter sections; and Giulio Capone provides both drums and keys (although not at the same time). The piano / keyboards are another huge part of The Earth Embraces Us All, enhancing the songs’ textures and atmosphere, enriching the musical landscapes. The mixing and production was done by Simone Mularoni (DGM), and the beautiful cover artwork was done by Gustavo Sazes.

The album begins with a progressive piece just under seven minutes called A Thousand Places. It features an almost-two-minutes-long instrumental intro with some pounding riffs, and a haunting acoustic section followed by a short bombastic section with piano underneath it, the playful part with something sounding like violin. The song then emerges into a standard verse-prechorus-chorus structure, neatly alternating between more melodic female-fronted sections with all-out heavy male-fronted ones. Then we get another two-minute almost-instrumental section with some brief operatic singing and chanting from Chiara, and Marco singing harmonies over a piano line, very Árstíðir-like. The keys really make this song special and memorable, on top of everything. It’s a testament to this album’s strength that it’s only my third favourite song here.

Things get definitely more straightforward and accessible with At the Edge of Space, a heavier and less complex number with verses and chorus full of driving energy. This is also the song featuring the album’s title in the lyrics. Got to say, I love when the album doesn’t have a title track per se, and the title is taken from the lyrics instead, so more points to Temperance for doing that. Once again, this song warms the soul with a gorgeous keyboard outro. Then we have Unspoken Words, an engaging tune which, curiously, reminds me of nothing else than I Want My Tears Back by Nightwish – the eclectic melody on the instrumental parts, the simple beat under the calm verses which are replaced with explosive chorus a few seconds later and then back to the main melody. The second verse, where Chiara takes the lead vocals, makes the song even more similar. The melodies are quite far apart from each other, so maybe it was a coincidence or an unconscious influence, but I’m getting a very similar vibe from both songs.

Next comes another heavier tune called Empty Lines, with a frantic melody between the vocal sections, brief electronic parts and roaring chorus where Marco takes the lead more often than not. This song isn’t too dissimilar from the two before it, which hurts the album’s flow a bit, in my opinion. This song blurs with the two before it and I had trouble remembering it even after ten or so listens to the whole record. However, when it’s actually playing in my headphones, it’s always a pleasure to listen to, so take my opinion with a grain of salt on this one. The following track, Maschere, does a good job varying the flow, being a slower-paced song with an anthemic feel in the verses. Oh, and it’s also sung in Italian. Being the shortest song on The Earth Embraces Us All, it makes up for it with a tasty guitar solo and Marco’s chill-inducing and blood-curdling (in a good way) screams at the very end.

And then we have the only song on the album I don’t like, Haze. This song feels like a weird attempt to combine some pop-influenced ideas like the wordy chorus with the heavy material in the instrumental sections early on, and also throwing the electronic spin in the intro. While I like some parts here and there, like the actual verses, a fairly good prechorus, and the bridge, the parts I dislike detract from the song too much. To add to the problem, the chorus is very catchy in an annoying way – I actively dislike it, yet I can’t get it out of my head.

As I view it, Haze somewhat divides the album into two parts. The first part concludes with Maschere and features material ranging from decent to great, but not quite reaching the highest points yet. It’s a solid effort from the reliable band, and it’s exactly what I thought I was getting from this album – a mature, sometimes complex and sometimes commercial-oriented symphonic metal. I was satisfied with this first part – maybe not immensely satisfied, but enough to praise the band for it.

It was the second part that nearly blew me away.

First, there is Fragments of Life, where the band fully embraces (ha) the symphonic aspect of their music, and the slower pace this song operates on is perfect to bring forward some acoustic guitars, piano and strings arrangements. It even feels like a proper beginning of the second act for me, all grandeur and soaring melodies. The only possible flaw in this song is that it relies on only one melody for the most part, but this melody is so well-written, and it comes off so naturally I don’t even mind. This tune is quickly followed by Revolution, which is an absolute beast of a track. You know you’re in for a treat when the intro kicks in, and this song delivers everything you expected and more. Chiara goes with an operatic style on the verses and then switches to the rock style singing in the prechoruses and choruses, going for those high notes during the title line, while Marco just screams his lungs off together with her, and it all makes for an incredibly satisfying experience. This is, perhaps, one of the best examples of how you write the simple chorus and make it work so well.

Revolution also showcases the band’s ability to write the wonderful serene sections and insert them into songs which can make you bang your head relentlessly one moment and then leave you stunned, trying to comprehend what this splendid moment is even doing in this song and how they managed to put it there so seamlessly. The “We will satisfy our need to make noise” moment preceded by an eastern-flavoured instrumental part is an excellent example of this. I wish Chiara used that tender, soft side of her voice more often, which she does on the next song, Advice from a Caterpillar. This one showcases the band’s ability to create adventurous songs first and foremost. These musicians aren’t afraid to experiment and it clearly shows here. This tune is just stellar however you look at it. After a somewhat predictable verse-chorus melodic metal first part, the song wanders away into a place full of wondrous serenity which is pierced by Marco’s screams here and there. The second half features an unexpected bluesy section woven seamlessly into the track. Luca Negro and Giulio Capone become a driving force with their bass and keyboards here, and then we have another gorgeously serene moment followed by a bombastic ending, bringing the song to a logical conclusion. This is my favourite composition from the album.

The penultimate track on the record, Change the Rhyme serves as a breath of air between two longer tracks. Both vocalists sing clean on this one, and the track has an anthemic feel to it, mostly thanks to the chorus. The instrumentation is more on the acoustic side here; the first verse-chorus sequence doesn’t have any electric guitars at all. This is another of my personal favourites from The Earth Embraces Us All. Now that I think about it, this record has so many great tracks. Finally, we have The Restless Ride, a thirteen-minute beast of a song to close the album with a bang. It’s basically the whole record in a nutshell – catchy, heavy, symphonic, a bit over the top in its musicianship, with relentlessly intense sections, softer moments, you name it. It’s easier to listen to this tune than to describe it, and if you liked what this album had to offer before this one, you’ll definitely like this track too.

I knew Temperance were a promising band after their debut, but this album certainly exceeded my expectations. I checked out the promo-files thinking I’ll get some usual enjoyable symphonic metal, and while this certainly ended up being true, The Earth Embraces Us All had a lot more to offer than I could have imagined at first. I thought this album will be up my alley, and it was; only I liked it a lot more I thought I would. A must-buy for any Temperance fan and highly recommended to any melodic symphonic metal fans out there.

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