When Blake Green started what would become the black metal group Lunar Temple, he didn't know if anyone would ever hear its music aside from his bandmates.
"We started playing without the intention of even playing shows," he said.
Instead of falling into the standard rock band routine, Green—who had been listening exclusively to meditative chants when the project began—had a more spiritual aim in mind.
"More of an actual tantric practice that [reflects] our personal beliefs in our daily lives," he explained. "Almost like church. And the idea was that if that practice was able to move forward into the world in a way that was helpful, then we would."
Some might find it hard to think of listening to black metal as a therapeutic experience. However, Lunar Temple's music achieves that goal through a paradoxical mix of growled vocals, pulverizing drums and calming drones.
Lunar Temple started recording its debut album earlier this week with local musician-producer Z.V. House at the Visual Arts Collective. The band will also play a show at the VAC on Friday, Nov. 23, with local indie-folk act Wend.
Lunar Temple arose from a series of jams between Green and Rutger Vanderlaan, who hailed from the local atmospheric death metal group TEMPESTARII.
"I did not know Rutger at the time," Green recalled. "We obviously knew each other from around town playing similar genres. But he just kind of showed up, and we'd sit around in silence and then go play for an hour and record it and that was that. After a period of time, we basically were like, 'Oh s***, this is music.' So then we'd go back through and try to recapture those moments and organize them... so it was a little more songlike."
This quasi-improvisational approach allowed Green to explore something new: "building a space to have whatever the raw expression is [coming] through... Trying to maintain its integrity as much as possible."
It took a while to get the specific feeling that Green and Vanderlaan wanted, though. Their composition, Renunciation (Sol y Nieve Records, 2018), needed to be overhauled before they felt comfortable releasing a demo on the group's Bandcamp page.
"We had almost finished the song that's on the demo and decided that it had moved too far away from the original emotional intention of the piece," Green said. "We scrapped it and started from the beginning. We did everything to try to honor and capture the original intention."
Eventually, Vanderlaan and Green's desire to refine their sound led them to recruit Reggie Townley from local experimental rock group The Sun and the Mirror. Townley had acted as a roadie for Green's previous band, the doom metal duo Wolvserpent, on one of its European tours.
"I don't know, it's hard to describe," Townley said of joining Lunar Temple. "I guess I was on the right wavelength on a personal level, which I think was of primary importance to this project. Even though [Green] didn't know Rutger very well beforehand, there was something there."
Townley's background in yoga and Eastern philosophy also aligned with Green's unique vision for Lunar Temple's music.
"It's very soothing and very consistent," Green said. "There are a lot of noise-drone aspects, but also, Rutger is playing blast beats the entire time, which in and of itself becomes a drone. We're tremolo picking the entire time, which again becomes a drone. And that was kind of the concept too: Taking that healing, spiritual aspect that has been present in music for so long—that is essentially a drone—and applying it to a genre that is very fast."
Lunar Temple's debut performance at the VAC on June 16 seemed to have the effect that Green wanted.
"I think at our first show, it was really great," he said. "People were able to have those individual experiences. ... I had one friend say that it was like he was given a blank page to interpret from that side."
The band's music has had a positive impact on its members as well.
"Last fall and winter was one of the darkest times of my life, which has had plenty of darkness," Townley said. "This project really helped me blast through it. Not in a way of obliterating all the sadness or anything like that. I was able to bore into it—get in there and through it, kinesthetically work out some of the stuff that was going on. ... Every time we practice, it's extremely helpful. It's been a profound healing process to be in it."
Lunar Temple will continue its musical explorations. The group plans to tour after completing its as-yet-untitled album. Green and his bandmates don't know where they'll go, but that, in part, is the idea.
"You can do the best you can to shoot the arrow where you want it to go," Green said, "but if the target's moving, you have no idea what it's gonna hit. ... It goes where it needs to go, and we have no control over it."