Temple Of The Smoke - Against Human Race

In which four heads from Belgrade throw some classic metal and spacerock influences into the blender with dub reggae (really!) and come up with a retro stoner rock psych-fest.

The first song has a title that tells you nearly all you need to know about these guys’ influences, and Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator will pin you to your seat or put you in need of a neck brace if you’re standing up. Spitting and snarling from a forgotten chunk of space debris, the ghosts of DikMik and Del Dettmar are conjured up and space squiggles a-plenty haunt this song, a Hawkfest meets Bevis Frond on bad speed. This is baaaad, man.

Unnatural Regression lets us chill with some space-dub-reggae. I’ll bet Lee 'Scratch' Perry never thought dub reggae would get as deep as Serbia, but there you go. Melting into Naked Sun the return of the analogue synths languidly builds with another Hawks-like bassline and some heavily treated guitar from Ozricland.

Deadly Skies sounds like it could be an outtake from the first Black Sabbath album, and if you’re of a certain age you can almost hear Ozzy’s wail coming round the corner. That it never does is no bad thing actually. This is a seriously HEAVY riff they’ve dug up on this one. Autumn World is far more laid back and does indeed manage to convey its title, at one point becoming almost pastoral would you believe.

South Of Heaven, and we’re back in deep space, with a riff as monstrous as a black hole, this mofo will suck you inside out. This time they’ve finally broken free of gravity, leaving behind the Sabs/Hawkwind influences arriving in an orbit of their own contrivance. Not for the faint-hearted and I’ll bet they’re ear-bleedingly loud live!

Into The Storm declaims in a sample at the beginning that “Citizens need to be armed to protect themselves against a tyrannical Government” – that may well be, or have been, true in Serbia, a place not known for the lightness of touch of its recent leaders, but sitting here in the UK after the shit that has gone down recently that statement has a laughable irony to it. Of course that’s not the band’s fault, and this song sees a return to dub reggae. I’m not sure that this style works within the context of the rest of the album, and dub reggae is an awful lot harder to get right, particularly the bass parts, than might appear at first listen. Of the two dub reggae songs on the album this one works best as the bass playing is far more of the fluid nature needed to carry off this style with any panache. If anyone thinks playing dub bass is easy try telling that to Robbie Shakespeare!

The album ends with Tortoise Du Mars, and we’re back to what the band do best. There’s a cyclical guitar motif about three and a half minutes in that is almost Fripp-like in construction, showing these guys are no mugs musically. This track shows most promise of all on the album and taken further this spacerock symphony bodes well for the future.

You won’t find anything startlingly new on this album, but it is an enjoyable listen, if a little disparate in its style changes. It will be interesting to see where Temple Of The Smoke go from here, and if the last track is anything to go by there’s still a lot to come.

3.5 out of 5
#53

Tracklist:

01. Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator
02. Unnatural Regression
03. Naked Sun
04. Deadly Skies
05. Autumn World
06. South of Heaven
07. Into the Storm
08. Tortoise du Mars

Line-up:

Janko Stojanović – guitar, synth, vocal
Dušan Žica – guitar, synth, dubbing
Marko Ilić – bass
Dragan Mirković – drums & percussion

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