“I do not kill with my gun, I kill with my heart.” It’s the closing line from Idris Elba in the trailer of The Dark Tower adaptation, and also captures the menace and majesty of Heavy Temple‘s psychedelic doom. Like Stephen King’s mind-bending series – which inspired Heavy Temple’s newest record Chassit – nothing is what it seems when the Philly rockers start slinging riffs. After the album’s ghostly ambient intro, “Key and Bone” kicks into a world-ending groove with supernatural swagger. “Ursa Machina” soars past Ursa Major with space rock that crash lands on a planet of Iommi’s crystallized riffs on “Pink Glass.” By the time the sizzle of “In the Court of the Bastard King” fully combusts, Heavy Temple have beckoned you to the Dark Tower during an epic quest that somehow clocks in under 30 minutes. Heavy Temple aren’t necessarily out to kill you with their hearts on these four tracks, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t for kicks.
Stream Chassit below, and find out why King’s novels just found their perfect stoner soundtrack. Also check out the interview with vocalist/bassist High Priestess Nighthawk for thoughts on The Dark Tower, King Crimson references, and the benefits of writing while almost asleep. But first, dive into the Mid-World with Heavy Temple and press play.
How does musical inspiration tend to come to you?
High Priestess Nighthawk: Usually when I’m about to fall asleep, if we’re being honest. I’ll hum things into my phone. Sometimes I roll a left-handed cigarette and something just comes to me. As far as concepts, that’s a bit more abstract. The first album was just a collection of riffs that turned into something. The second was slightly more concentrated.
Chassit seems heavily inspired by the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. What is it about those books and that world that appeals to you?
Nighthawk: I started reading them almost a decade ago. I made it through the first three and then stopped for a while. When I picked up the fourth book back in 2013, I just kind of started plowing through them. I’d never read much Stephen King, though I’d always had a fondness for his work. I can’t really explain why I was drawn to the series, but there were these weird parallels in my life while I was writing for Chassit. Chassit means 19 in the High Speech – more like Dork Tower, amirite? And the number 19 means, well, basically that everything’s fucked. After the first album, that line-up completely fell apart, so it only seemed natural to write the new album about it, with a little help from Mr. King.
I know you’ve used projections in your live shows. What’s important to you about the visual aspect of the band?
Nighthawk: Sadly, our projectionist is abroad at the moment. We’re passively looking for a new one, but the Alchemist was basically a band member. He would tailor his live projections to our set, and he had a sound-sensitive trigger so he could syncopate visuals in tandem. It was really something else. I’d always intended Heavy Temple to be more than the sum of it’s parts, and I think that’s why the projections worked so well. But now that we don’t have them, we just rely on the vibe we put out when we shred.
Was Chassit written with the old line-up intact?
Nighthawk: Generally speaking, all of these songs were written before we had the line-up that you hear on Chassit. And when we finally did get to record, it took an unfortunately long time to put it out. Heavy Temple has Spinal Tap’s luck when it comes to drummers, but Tempest is a very solid fit and if she leaves we’ll kill her. Barghest was instrumental in getting us to the point we are now. We were very sad to see him go, and we’re glad we got to record Chassit with him. That being said, Thunderhorse transitioned smoothly into the fold and we’re very excited to be moving forward with her on guitar.
On “Key and Bone”:
Nighthawk: This song was actually written about 8 years ago in a band called Pagan Wolf Ritual, shortly after I read the first Dark Tower book, The Gunslinger. In fact, I believe it’s the first song I ever wrote for a band. It opens with a cello intro in E minor, as a continuation of the previous album. And if you listen carefully to the second track on the self titled, you’ll notice I borrowed a turn around from “Key and Bone.”
On “Ursa Machina”:
Nighthawk: This song was supposed to be on the self titled, but I’m glad we waited. It’s named after a mechanical bear in the third book, The Wastelands. Even though it’s the second track on the album we always open with it. Number one hit of the summer type thing. There’s an underlying meaning, but you gotta figure that out for yourselves.
On “Pink Glass”:
Nighthawk: Pink Glass is another name for Black 13, the wizard’s glass, from the fourth book aptly named Wizard and Glass. This was the book that resonated most deeply with me, and though I don’t really feel like this song does that resonance justice, feels wise, but lyrically it’s a very accurate representation. The glass intoxicates you, gives you false premonitions, let’s you see a future that doesn’t really exist.
On “In the Court of the Bastard King”:
Nighthawk: This was originally written during an interim period where Heavy Temple was a two-piece. I really wanted to have a psychedelic freakout at the end, but since we were just a two-piece (pre-Tempest), and I’d just ditched 4 of the 7 pedals I was using, that kind of got put on the back burner. Then when Barghest joined the band we just gave him the reins there and let him loose. Also, finally, the track is a reference to one of the characters, the Crimson King. And I have to assume that since Stephen King is a special kind of weird, it’s his homage to King Crimson. I changed it to Bastard King after the last line-up dissolved.
Are you excited about the film adaptation of The Dark Tower?
Nighthawk: I plead the fifth.
Purchase the digital record from Heavy Temple’s Bandcamp and follow their upcoming gigs on Facebook. Snatch up a cassette from Tridroid Records over HERE. Or spin some sweet vinyl from Ván Records by ordering HERE.