The Templars of ancient European history were an order of knights who were some of the most mysterious figures to have arisen in the era of the Crusades. Christian soldiers, they were a sect that evolved into a secret society and emerged as one of the most powerful concentrations of military might and religious ideology that medieval Europe would know. They were also the inspiration for the character Simon Templar of The Saint fame. And they’re also one of the most prosperous contemporary Oi!-punk bands currently around.
The Battle of Hattin occurred in 1187 and was perhaps the most decisive blow against the Crusaders, leading ultimately to their downfall. The Horns of Hattin, from which the new Templars album draws its name, was a ring of barren hills that the Muslim forces trapped the Crusaders in, including the Knights Templar, and which became a killing field, wiping out most of the Christian army. This little bit of history is relevant to The Horns of Hattin, not only in name, but because Templars seem to really be into the historical aspects of the Knights Templar. The album’s artwork is a painting of the Battle of Hattin, and the interior of the insert bears various historical images. Yet, in terms of the history of Oi!, Templars are something of an anomaly. Oi! was often originally the musical territory of skinheads, and generally music of race and class warfare. Templars, on the other hand, is a band of one white and two black members, playing music in the classic Oi! style that defies its racist origins.
In terms of Templars’ songs, the topics are much more contemporary than the band’s fixation on the Knights Templar. “Video Age” deals with modern life’s fixation on image technology, while “H Street” is a straight punk send-up of the world of heroin addiction. Most of the other tracks here deal with alienation and fights and life on the skids. In other words, it fits all expectations.
But where Templars surprises the most is in their sheer ability. The boys can play. While Carl Templar’s growled, rough vocals are par for the Oi! course, he’s actually quite an accomplished guitarist. Perry and Phil Templar’s bass and drums lay down clean rhythms and drive the music forward. Where many lesser Oi! bands use the rough-and-tumble nature of the scene to create sloppy and fast pogo music, Templars change up the tempos, change keys, and sound just as clean and precise no matter what the pace. Oi! always suffered from the problem of sounding like the same song played over and over with different lyrics, but on The Horns of Hattin, Templars show how it can be done with style and skill, and not lose any of the fun, anger, or energy.