Vektor – Terminal Redux

Believe the fucking hype. With Terminal Redux, Vektor didn’t just aim for the sky, they didn’t just aim for the moon, they aimed for fucking pluto and then zoomed past it into the next galaxy. The actual concept isn’t unheard of, plenty of bands have tried to make space adventure concept albums. However few if any have ever executed that concept as well as Vektor did here, especially in a genre so traditionally limiting like Thrash Metal. And in the process of succeeding where few have before, they created an all time classic that will be played, discussed, and thoroughly enjoyed for generations to come.

But you don’t get there by just doing what others have done previously, and in this case not even what Vektor themselves have done previously. This album is more entrenched in black metal than any of their other records before, the harsh vocals especially being almost purely black metal in style. Actually calling this black thrash wouldn’t be too much of a stretch on most tracks. However that’s not why this album is amazing. It is a reason I feel it differs itself from others, especially in that it combines such a sinister sub genre with an extremely technical and progressive leaning, but not why it’s the top of the ticket for this years list of AOTYs. What really sets this apart is in it’s comparison to other albums released as concept albums (or just albums in general really).

Concept albums tend to have the massive bother of being A. too long, and B. Not having enough content to be that long. If there’s anything any music listener knows, it’s that music artists tend to have a hard time making their music match their vision, especially with albums with large concepts, and ESPECIALLY in metal. Usually that’s a result of a lack of talent, but even talented artists fail at this simply because no matter how gifted you are, making 70+ minutes of music that’s not only consistent, and not only diverse, but ALSO centered entirely around a theme or story is just fucking hard. Many artists get some of those aspects right (and by some i mean almost always just one), but god damn is it almost impossible to get the triple play. And even albums that do get all three right typically suffer from being too tame, or playing it way too safe in a way that their album is a technical success, but feels underwhelming. It’s why I’m so quick to bash concept albums, it’s not that i hate them, it’s that executing them to the level of which I regard as acceptable is almost impossible. I feel like if you’re going to set the bar as high as possible, you have to reach that bar, fair or not.

Now it goes without saying that I feel like Vektor wins on all sides of the triangle of my arbitrary standards for concept albums. Sans some slight hiccups which I’ll get to a bit later, Terminal Redux is astoundingly consistent, with every track feeling unique and worth listening to. Even the one “filler” track on the album feels like it wasn’t wasted, as it leads perfectly into the track following. And not only is every track a hit, but every track sounds like it’s own being. I have to comment on how melodically diverse this album is, because that is a major rarity among metal albums, especially in fucking thrash metal of all things. I honestly believe every track but the 1 minute lead up track could be released as a single, which holds some truth, because 3 of them actually were. Normally something like that would be a sign of a band who has sold out, but not, 3 of the 10 tracks are singles because they’re all just so fucking good by themselves, let alone together. The best example of this I think are the final too tracks, Collapse and Recharging the Void. When I first heard Collapse, all I could think of is “wow, this would’ve made a fanatic closer”, and could taste that juicy 13:37, leet disappointment of a finale. I’m cynical as fuck, if I see a long track finale, and the shorter track before hand would make a great closer, even before I hear the final track I’m going to assume the band fucked up. But no, not only is Recharging the Void just as good as Collapse, it’s even BETTER as a closing statement. I would even go so far as to say it’s the perfect way for them to close this album, I really don’t think they could’ve pulled it of better. And that leads me into the most unique aspect of Terminal Redux, and what really separates this from the crowd.

The biggest problem with concept albums is that no matter how good the music is, if the lyrics can’t be heard, the concept is often lost upon people, because it’s really hard to tell a story via just music without either making it really obvious, or the listener knowing the story before hand from an external source. Vektor manages not just to masterfully tell a full story with music, but they make you feel the story as well. This albums feels like a blockbuster movie. A gripping, 73 minute, action packed, science fiction thriller that if made into moving pictures would probably be nominated for uh, idunno, probably a Golden Globe, the Oscars don’t really like nerd shit. Very few albums this long have the ability to make me just sit there listening to it without doing anything else, and being totally entertained at the same time. Charging the Void and Cygnus Terminal make me envision the hopeful start to a heroes journey throughout the cosmos. LCD to Pillars of Sand show me the action filled, perilous trials of the hero, enunciated on by the sinister and tense riffs. And finally we have Collapse and Recharging the Void, the triumphant victory of the heroes, shown by the proud and euphoric chords, and powerful noisy atmosphere. One small thing that I absolutely love is how Charging the Void and Recharging the void end with exactly the same riff, which implies to me that these heroes are not done, and that after a well earned victory, they continue to set sail for adventure. The album is at it’s best when it’s at it’s combining it’s harsh reality of peril and death with it’s ever ending optimism, when it combines both the positive and the negative, the major and the minor. It’s so refreshing to find a concept record that not only focuses on doom and peril, but the joy and idealism of an adventurous spirit. Plus it sounds pretty, what’s not to like about that?

Terminal Redux is one of those albums that we may not fully appreciate until 5-10 years down the road. We see it simply as one of the best metal albums this year, but further down the line, I can see this easily being not only a 2010s classic, but a thrash metal classic, period. Hell I wouldn’t be surprised to see this on some top 100 metal albums ever lists after the dust settles.

Are there flaws with this album, of course. I feel that tracks 6 and 7 feel just a tad bit too similar to each other, and one of them could’ve been taken off for the benefit of the album. Other than that, I can’t complain much. Could I spend an hour digging through the album to find flaws, you bet I could. I’m an asshole at heart, and if there’s anything more fun than praising an album, it’s taking a giant shit on it. But what the fuck would be the point? Nothing is perfect, and anyone who uses that as an excuse to not give something a perfect score is a massive memelord who should be ignored at all costs. Terminal Redux is not the greatest metal album of all time, nor is it perfect, nor is it worth the endless amounts of shitposting and memes it spawned. But if you even bother focusing on that fact, and not take time to just appreciate the album for what it is, you’re missing one hell of a ride.


Stam1na – Elokuutio

I think it’s time for people to step back and realize that maybe we should just stop with the whole concept album thing in metal. And that has about as much to do with the genre of metal itself as it does the people making them. First off, the people who actually want to make a concept album (usually power, heavy, progressive, thrash metal dudes) can’t ever actually make them, part of which is because power, heavy, and thrash metal are so limited in scope instrumentally, so you have to rely on either skits or vocals to tell the story (which lets be real, metal bands are exactly geniuses are writing lyrics), and progressive metal is just a trash genre right now. The other part is because the people who play in those bands are usually not “artistic” so to speak, which you kind of need to be to create a true concept album. I don’t think something like Program Music I would be possible in a metal album without adding lots of other subgenres to the tag list. Second of all, concept albums in general are overrated as hell. I don’t need the music itself to tell me it’s telling a story, the music IS the story. One of the great things about non programmatic music is how its meaning is totally up to the interpretation of the listener. I typically listen to a metal album and just enjoy the music for what it is, rather than the story it has to tell. Often times I don’t care about any story or even want one, I just want to listen rad jams. This album is exactly what you think it would be; it does a few things to fractionally grab your attention, but largely falls flat at any grand theme, and for the most part blissfully wanders into chugland. It’s not terrible to listen to, but it’s not really worth the entire 47 minutes of your time. True, the lyrics being in finnish do make it harder for a filthy american to understand the whole concept, but based on what I heard, I don’t think I’m missing much.


Exmortus – Ride Forth ALBUM REVIEW

I remember when I was a kid I was obsessed with really difficult music. I was really into composers like Liszt and Alkan because they’re music was what I thought was extremely complex and difficult. In 6th grade I even brought a copy of Moonlight Sonata to class to show off the third movement in order to explain how it was “the hardest piece in the world” (I can feel everyone cringing). Freshman year of high school, me and my friend would listen to a bunch of really hard classical music and gawk over how cool it was (well, mostly me, he was kinda just along for the ride). It was around this time that I started listening to those touhou metal remixes on youtube, and the same time a friend of mine showed me Yngwie Malmsteen. I could say that this was probably my first experience with metal, and I fell in love with. I always dreamed of going on America’s Got Talent and playing piano in a band that would play metal arrangements of Chopin pieces, and win the heart of america through my intellectual and technical playing.

Fast forward to 2016 and my favorite band is Ahab, I HATE Alkan with a passion, and I’d rather listen to Schoenberg or Penderecki than any romantic composer that ever lived. Needless to say, things changed. I realized that what I thought was super complex and hard was only just hard, and that purely technical and melodic playing only capture a fraction of the emotion that more atmospheric and creative music can. Basically, I grew up. I’m not sure if that was for the better or not, but the fact is I wouldn’t have listened to even 20 seconds of Thergothon even 3-4 years ago.

However I’ve always secretly yearned for some good technical and melodic playing, which is probably why I attach myself to djent despite the massive amount of garbage in the genre. Here comes Exmortus’ Ride Forth in my backlog and I see that dammed Neoclassical Metal tag. Full disclosure, my only experience with neoclassical metal had previously been the aforementioned Malmsteen, which was intentional. Malmsteen doesn’t seem that great to me now, and if he is supposedly the pinnacle of the genre, I’m not sure why I’d invest in it any more. But, it was in my backlog, and I have to give things a fair shot.

So personal rant aside, what do I actually think of the album? Well, there was certainly a nostalgia factor when I heard those classical period style melodies. It’s the kind of sound I didn’t know I wanted to hear all this time. Honestly if had heard of Exmortus about 7 years ago I probably would’ve obsessed over them. Aggressive enough with the death vocals to be edgy, with the classical style melodies I loved so much. However as I am now, this doesn’t register much more than nostalgia. These kind of songs don’t get me going as much as they used to. And it’s not even this band’s fault, the only composer before 1880 that I can listen to anymore is Bach, and only in the hands of the right players. Anything before then after Bach I can’t deal with, it just bores me.

That isn’t to say this is bad album. I certainly love guitar shredding as much as the next guy, albeit it’s not exactly my favorite thing to listen to. If anything, I feel like Ride Forth would’ve been much better if Exmortus had actually toned down on the thrash elements. Songs like Appassionata and Fire and Ice are legitimately 9/10 tracks and exactly what I want to hear from a neoclassical metal album, Appassionata especially. That track is completely instrumental, devoid of the death vocals that I feel add nothing but unneeded edge, and follows exactly the kind of format a classical piece would have. As the title indicates, I can actually feel the passion in their playing, and call my crazy, but this is the only time in the album I feel like the musicians are having fun playing. It’s kind of a weird thing to criticize, but I don’t feel any sort of umpf in the majority of this album. It seems like a lot of the time Exmortus is going through the motions, whether they actually are or not.

I love aggressive music as much as the next guy, but I don’t feel like the aggression here really works. When everything clicks, everything clicks. But otherwise, Ride Forth feels nothing more than decent music that appeals to our basic musical needs but nothing really more than that.


Mutant – Pleiades ALBUM REVIEW

Holy mother of fuck, where did these guys come from and why haven’t I heard of them before? Normally if I’m giving an obscure and unknown band a really high score it’s because despite its low production value, it does something incredibly unique and spectacular that I can ignore, or in the best case, embrace the fact that it’s not professionally made. This is not the case of Pleiades. No, despite being an almost completely unknown band (at least here in the states), Mutant crafted not only an album that sounds big budget and well produced, but takes the now stale and dying genre of thrash metal to a whole new level I haven’t seen this century. And yes, that includes Vektor.

Before even attempting to listen to this album, you need to let go of all expectations of what thrash metal is supposed to sound like. Or better yet, don’t and be totally blown away like I was. Because this isn’t a revival album. This isn’t trying to bring back the glory days of thrash. No, this is Two Thousand and fucking Sixteen. It’s time for a new style for a new era.

The vocals? They’re so harsh they border on death metal at times. Which is fitting because the guitars are so downtuned there are times where it legit sounds like tech death. This is aggressive and angry as fuck thrash metal, so much so I have no shame in admitting that I head banged copiously and flailed around my dorm room like a retard on ecstasy. Makes me wonder what kind of image would come up if Google Earth happened to be taking pictures right by my window at that time, just in time to see a skinny guy in an Ahab shirt apparently having either the happiest or angriest seizure ever experienced.

But the kicker? That’s not all this album does. I’d say it’s barely over half actually. What separates his album over all other modern thrash is that it ISN’T just a headbanger, it ISN’T just aggressive, and it ISN’T a copycat album. You want to know what modern thrash sounds like? How about adding dark/tribal ambient sections to your music? I mean what better way to set up the mood for an album about the Mayan Apocalypse than setting the mood with dark, sinister synths, closing and beginning certain tracks as if warning as to what is to come.

You want modern thrash? How about tritones as your main chord. There are multiple sections in this album that show off these old school djenty / othodox black metal like tritone chords that I’ve never heard in a thrash album before. Now, it’s true that lots of old school thrash bands use tritones, but the way these two bands utilize them is entirely different. Thrash bands typically utilize the tritone found in a blues scale. So like they’re E a few times then hold a Bb, before descending back to E with A and G. So the scale would be E, G, A, Bb, Cb, D, E. A pretty common scale it lots of old rock, metal, and well uh, blues of course. However Mutant doesn’t do that. On Road to Xigbalba, the main chord of the track is A, Bb, E. Now, that sounds similar to a blues scale, because you played E to Bb, it would be a blues scale tritone. But not here, because the actual focus of the tritone is A and Bb. The scale ends up being A, Bb, C, D, E, F, G, A. Do you know what that fucking scale is? THAT’S FUCKING A PHRYGIAN. WHO THE FUCK WRITES A THRASH SONG IN A, FUCKING PHRYGIAN? Classical musicians don’t even write music in that mode because it’s so archaic. It’s absolute madman level of crazy… but it fucking works. And it’s not even the only time they use atonal chords.

Oh but I’m sorry, that’s not enough cool shit? How about jazz chords as well. Actually you know what would be really cool in a thrash album? A song that begins as a full on dark ambient track, transitions perfectly into a jazz prog track, and then transition again IN ABSOLUTE PERFECTION into an aggressive, melodic, proggy thrash track with an amazing mix of clean and harsh vocals. You want that? Of course you fucking do, and it’s on this god damn album on Children of the River, which I would say is the best track on the album, but I don’t even think I can decide that without feeling like I’m leaving another track out.

This album is absolutely everything thrash could be that it isn’t right now. It has all that I could want, but never have. In essence, this is the future of trash metal. If only people could actually give this a listen.


Horrendous – Anereta ALBUM REVIEW

Been a while since I did one of these, let’s see how my time off served me.
It seemed like a perfect storm. A mixture of all the things I love in music. Sophisticated harmony, technically brilliant, melodically well thought out, and rough around the edges. Everything I could possibly want in an album. Horrendous’ Anereta seemed like a surefire AOTY candidate from me. And at the start, it sure seemed that way.

What struck me first about the album was how each song was structured around one super catchy riff. And not just based around, but evolved from as well, having beginning, middle, and ends that seem to be in some way tangently related to that one riff. Every chord seemed to be there for a reason; to exert a certain emotion, or to move along the song to the next stage. The music in this record is intelligently constructed by extremely well practiced composers. No, not just musicians. That would imply they only know how to play. These guys know how to write good music as well. I loved how despite mostly standard chord progressions, they threw just enough spicy chords in there to keep you on your toes. It’s a much understated aspect of this album, but things like the major seventh mini resolutions on The Nihilist, and the arpeggio on Siderea, just… unf, you know? It’s the kinda thing that almost gives you pseudo-sexual pleasure by listening to it. Not quite eargasms, but more like ear-edging. They’re little things, but important things.

And there’s plenty of those to go around throughout the album. Even my wishes for a rougher sounding track were answered on Acolytes, which is much more a traditional head-banging death metal track that then eases its way to a post-metal like climax in a major key, to which the rest of the song had been in this typical metal mixture of minor and atonal. And of course, just in case you weren’t excited enough, it ends in a completely unrelated key to which the song began, a moment that I’d call random if I didn’t know better.

However, as the album began, it grew a very server case of diminishing returns. I began to realize that even though on a technical level, all the tracks were quite different, they all seemed so much the same. I mean this in that even though they all had distinct structures and melodies, they all conveyed the same thought. They were all synonyms for “technical progressive death metal”. Great to listen to at first, but after a while I felt I wanted something else, something the album hadn’t already shown me yet. The only time Anereta really seemed to change things up was on Sum of All Failures, which resulted in an extremely forced sounding acoustic intro that ended not having anything to do with the rest of the track. It’s almost as if the band knew they needed something else, but didn’t know what else to give that others hadn’t already done.

The album went from a solid 9.75 to around the 8.5-8.25 range. Finally however, I got my wish, as The Solipsist sent the album off with a bang. Taking a totally new spin on the acoustic intro trope, they instead use this muted electric guitar, which sounds more like it belongs in a jazz fusion album than a death metal one. But god damn does it work. This calm, yet sorrowful reflection slowly builds into a crushing, slow, and titanic finale that couldn’t have been a better closer if it tried.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit too little too late. Despite mending the wound slightly with its final breath, Anereta is a fantastic record that just doesn’t quite have enough variety in it to mingle with the elite, showing that songwriting skills alone can only get one so far before our mere human attention spans wish for something different.