Release Date: 7th May 2021
FFO: Skeletonwitch, Vektor, Testament
Thrash can be both technical, focusing on a tight delivery, or it can careen wildly from track to track, the sheer enthusiasm stopping the carnage from coming off the rails entirely. Rampaging out of the underground to make their mark on the thrash landscape with a conceptually-driven debut are Danish-American group Terminalist and they strive to fall somewhere between the two with their debut The Great Acceleration.
Concept albums are often thought of as high-minded, but Terminalist are intent on helping prove that they belong just as much in thrash as other subgenres. The central theme of The Great Acceleration is, perhaps unsurprisingly, speed. Dromology is a theory of speed postulated by French philosopher Paul Virilio; its central claim is that the world is ruled by speed, driving history forward in a state of ever-increasing acceleration. Together with their own science fiction universe, Terminalist blend this with a tale of a world in crisis and a planet in collapse that’s being abandoned in favour of colonising space. They balance social criticism through the lens of technology – such as the idea that the invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck – along with pessimism about the future.
Opening with the one-two combo of the immediately frenetic ‘Relentless Alteration’ and ‘Terminal Dispatch’, Terminalist waste no time in setting out their stall. The guitarwork speeds along, tightly controlled but with a strong sense of groove – especially in the chorus for ‘Terminal Dispatch’, which also sets out its story in no uncertain terms: “We come ever closer / To the point of the terminal / Abandon our settlement / To watch over the sky”, describing a collapsing world as its inhabitants look toward space to save them.
It’s not all fast-paced riffing, though; the guitar solo in the midsection of ‘Terminal Dispatch’ is understated and there’s a similar melodic break toward the end of ‘The Invention of the Shipwreck’ that sees the speed relent somewhat with a soaring solo. This isn’t the only time they buck thrash conventions, either. Their take also blends blackened elements in the vein of early Skeletonwitch with death metal-esque roars. Not only this, but the conceptual nature of the album allows them to flex their creative muscles in ways more expected of proggier pastures; ‘The Invention of the Shipwreck’ and ‘Dromocracy’ are eleven and nine minutes in length respectively. The length of these allows their more progressive tendencies to shine including the outright black metal of ‘Dromocracy’ that morphs from tremolo riffing to thrash and back again with ease.
The sheer number of plates Terminalist are spinning, on their debut album no less, would be enough to sink many bands. It’s testament to their skill and musicianship that not only do they manage to not fall into this trap but also have crafted a remarkably engaging and thoughtful album on their first record. The Great Acceleration is conceptually and musically rich, with repeat listens often unearthing something that was missed the last time or allowing focus on another element like lyrics to appreciate the scale of the storytelling. It’ll be interesting to see where the future takes both them and their promising take on modern thrash.
Recommend Tracks: Terminal Dispatch, The Invention of the Shipwreck