As a prog fan, listening to TEMIC’s Terror Management Theory for the first time is not unlike sliding into a new pair of slippers that somehow feel like you’ve lived in them for years. That the band’s lineup features current and former members of Devin Townsend (keyboards), Shining (drums), The Neal Morse Band (guitars), and Haken (keyboards) should surprise no one who has had the pleasure of listening to this debut. Those elements are there in abundance. Yet the element that most surprised me, and perhaps one of its biggest selling points, is the vocals, courtesy of Fredrik Bergersen Klemp.
My not having seen, apparently, the finals of Idol Norway, and lacking any familiarity with prog acts Maraton and 22, Klemp is the one person in TEMIC whose past work is entirely unknown to me. I had not heard his voice until the single for “Count Your Losses,” which I randomly stumbled upon on a prog site. Though “Count Your Losses” is a somewhat odd choice for a single—mostly because it lacks the hook of the other eight songs on Terror Management Theory—Klemp’s versatility does shine here. Despite musically feeling like this might be treading into all-too familiar modern prog territory, I took a mental note of the odd name (TEMIC) on the promise of Klemp’s vocals.
Fortunately, “Count Your Losses” makes more sense in the context of the album, which is largely lighter and somewhat proggier than the comparatively heavy first single. The album’s first song, for example, is the perfect vehicle for Klemp’s voice. An at times ethereal track, “Through the Sands of Time” has a bounce and life to it, but it feels equally committed to exploring a darker theme and sound. Even given that sort of diversity, Klemp’s vocals capture it all quite perfectly.
It is rare that an album so deftly and seamlessly walks the line between light and dark. TEMIC manages that balancing act here while always adhering to a commitment to melody—and without delving into anything so modern that it will turn off, for lack of a better term, prog traditionalists. The aforementioned near equity between metal and rock is somewhat akin to Riverside and Pain of Salvation. But whereas the latter more obviously embraces experimentation, TEMIC plays it a little closer to the vest.
A fall release in a relatively quiet year for prog has created the perfect storm for Terror Management Theory, which has quickly become one of my more listened-to albums in 2023. It’s not uncommon that I’ll seek out more contemplative albums this time of year, but TEMIC’s debut has been a particularly rewarding, and unexpected, treat.