It’s all coming back to me now. Not Celine Dion, but that intense rush of adrenaline and power that is felt within the riffing and grooving of speed metal bands. As a teenager I used to listen to a lot of thrash metal, but as the years went by I lost interest and started perceiving the genre as being bland – both in aesthetics as well as music-wise. Two weeks of listening to Terminal Redux brought me in a state of hopefulness. One could call it nostalgia, but I call it hope. Hope that despite it’s dated aesthetic – and which genre originating in the 80s has not become obsolete by now? – thrash metal can still be relevant these days.
RELEASE DATE: 06 May 2016 LABEL: Earache Records
In the past, thrash has been the most socially engaged genre within the spheres of metal. Bands like Megadeth and Nuclear Assault typically filled their lyrics with social commentary, similar to punk music. Outside thrash metal however, few other metal genres are exposing the wrongs and evils of society and reflect them in such a direct manner – and I think that has always been one of the big roles of artists. Unlike punk’s more direct “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” lyrical approach, singer David DiSanto has crafted an elaborate story to function as a carrier for his message. A good handful of thrash metal bands have already explored the theme of space – Voivod and Gama Bomb come to mind – but Terminal Redux is a sci-fi concept album that aligns better with dystopian works like Huxley’s Brave New World or V for Vendetta. I will not fully elaborate on the story, but I can say that it contains all the depth of a true work of literature. After two weeks, LCD (Liquid Crystal Disease) still makes me feel guilt when I pick up my smartphone, and I have yet to figure out why exactly the Cygnus regime comes to an end.
Terminal Redux is littered with thrash tropes, but also features a melodicism that leaves the listener craving for catch, interspersed with progressive riffing. The attention to detail on this album is stunning, not only when it comes to the story. The somewhat awkward surf guitar solo on the mid-tempo jammer Collapse is an eyebrow-raising moment on the album that nicely contrasts with the thrashing that follows. And then it’s also nice to hear a bass guitar duelling it out with a lead guitar during Pteropticon. For almost 80 minutes, this band keeps flying through riffs, but all the time these peculiar and interesting moments emerge from this soup of shredding. For the untrained ear this album might be somewhat of a stretch, but I promise that this album is a magnificent grower. Multiple listens will reveal the knowledge of individual parts, but it will also make the listener aware of the gigantic compositional accomplishment this record is.
Charging the Void is a very effective exposition of the story that lures the listener in with technical playing, but which also surprises with a choir humming along during the finale. Mountains Above the Sun is a softer track that comes in at just the right time to give the listener time to breathe, and Collapse sees the band deliberately release the throttle, right before charging into the last song. Recharging the Void predictably reprises the album opener and the choir is enhanced with the soulful wailing of a female vocalist – reminiscing the ending of Dream Theater’s The Spirit Carries On. Indeed, the stylistic references to progressive rock and metal are numerous on this record, even the idea of the Cygnus regime bringing balance to the world refers to a Rush lyric, “We shall call you Cygnus. The god of balance you shall be.”
Here in the 21st century, where thrash feels stylistically obsolete, the genre still proves its worth with this wonderful record. Our society needs artists to show us our bad side, but also to entertain us with a good story. Vektor do just that with this spectacular record. Terminal Redux is an epic journey of which you will only comprehend the extent after having it heard as a whole. The record comes full circle in an intricate way that leaves me baffled, even after two weeks of listening.