TERMINALIST – The Great Acceleration (2021)REVIEW

With speed, the world keeps on coming at us, to the detriment of the object, which is itself now assimilated to the sending of information. It is this intervention that destroys the world as we know it, technique now reproducing permanently the violence of the accident; the mystery of speed remains a secret of light and heat from which even sound is missing.” Paul Virilio, The Aesthetics of Disappearance

Within moments of delving into the life’s work of French contemporary aesthetic philosopher Paul Virilio the concept of dromology is presented as an incredible lure for the inquisitive intellectual and/or academic yet in the eyes and ears of the layman it may as well be as vague, symbolically idiosyncratic and challenging in scope as your first read through the Foundation and Empire series of books might’ve been as a young adult. The sooner we get to the point, the capability of the human mind (concerning the logistics of perception, more or less) to live outside of time and away from lived experiences due to speed of technological advancements, the sooner we are presented with what is largely considered the reality of the present for many, a potentially detrimental existence defined by temporal alienation, savage nihilism, and ingrained distortion of reality. His speculation on cultural implications of digital technology, developed from the late seventies ’til the late 2010’s amongst various other impressive works, read as true as his famous quote that (paraphrasing) “there are no pessimists, only realists“. Theorem marrying human and social sciences with technology might fly over the heads of some but its application to times of infinitely cajoled warfare and mass distrust of both political institutions and modern media is yet one of our most potent tools to cutting away at the chaos of the cyberspaced “online” illusion each of us carries around like a badge of toxic importance. The joy of this examination comes with a linkage between decidedly western philosophy, urbanism, social (and environmental) science and the political applications of these theorem making dromology a near perfect foil for a sci-fi obsessed progressive thrash metal band like Copenhagen, Denmark based quartet Terminalist to vault off of in tribute to this worldview and, in examination of it, get a bit political within their own contained science-fictitious universe. The critical thinking involved in this narrative is not immediately obvious as we zip through ‘The Great Acceleration‘, and it really can just read as a class act ‘new old school’ prog-thrash metal record, but the sophistication of their craft is yet impressive when breached by intensive study.

Classic thrash metal standards of the late 80’s technician-focused peak applied to the resurgence of those standards two decades later (and now a decade beyond that) we can see the core inspiration for Terminalist‘s craft and level of detail applied to composition within an appreciation for the basal traits of 80’s thrash metal, the popular early “blackened” vocal havoc and high-rate technical evolution of Vektor and Skeletonwitch alongside some expressed appreciation for the early work of Melechesh. This doesn’t necessarily pre-qualify their style as black/thrash metal but instead a progressive thrash metal band influenced by the generational standards of death and black metal upon technical thrash metal within the last two decades. Complex as this sounds when wrung out the actual listening experience is actually very straightforward and easily read, they present themselves as “hyperthrash” as a key tag and this should indicate that they’re very much along the lines of the first two Vektor albums but with their own sense of blackened intensity that adds a more ‘serious’ feeling tonality to the performative sections of each composition. We can hear these traits leaning into the ‘Djinn’ / ‘Sphynx’ paradigm on their first EP ‘Abandon All Liberties‘ (2019) but their progressive death/thrash side began to show most clearly with the “Voyagers” single released in 2020, a fine, hype-worthy song that I am still vexed did not make it to ‘The Great Annihilation’. The explanation I believe holds some water is the sense that it did not fit the conceptual vision of this album, which centers around the aforementioned dromology application to their own science fiction world and the central statement of the piece.

The notion that “the invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck” of course demands an explanation that is quick to grasp as even the simplest philosophical statement can prove a conundrum or worse, a misappropriated idiocy. With any new technology there is a negative inevitability that comes with it; The simplest way to put it is that with the invention of electricity came a certain number of expected deaths and injuries by way electrocution, the applications are infinite and obvious once it is explained. The point isn’t so much about weighing pros and cons of technology but calculating the deaths that will be directly caused by technology. With this in mind, Terminalist have centered the apex of album within an ~11 minute piece set directly in the middle of the tracklist, placing two songs on each side of it for a three act concept album. Causation and development, a central statement of thesis in practicum, and the elaborate speculative fallout beyond in the form of a dystopia ruled by those whom had the “speed” advantage in place. Put in tangible terms: Earth must colonize in space, to do so this must involve rapid technological advancement, the power struggle beyond is in the hands of those two move and act with the greatest speed. The specifics are fairly straightforward as the lyrics are not convoluted in any sense, getting right to the point with what I’d consider classic thrash metal symbolism, very clear imagery without any sort of elaborate prose gumming up the narrative. There is a nice balance there between conveying a theme in a readable way, maintaining a sort of academic/philosophic sci-fi atmospheric, and riffing their damned heads off. Although I don’t think the format and running order will work as well as a record like ‘Visitations from Enceladus’ did for vinyl, splitting ‘The Great Acceleration’ into thirds allows it to be sublimely readable and ‘complete’ in stature once the greater arc becomes apparent.

Huh, what about the riffs? Well, the level of detail here in terms of guitar work is so consistent that the full listen could easily find some listeners lost within a bout of major tunnel vision. They’ve toyed with recognizable features and yet written songs so ambitiously packed with elaboration that the greater hills and valleys aren’t readily apparent. This is both a compliment and a suggestion that the niche is well served yet the broader appeal may be limited unless they go far more progressive, or streamline a few pieces on each record back for readability. Either way, if you come to technical and progressive thrash metal because it is a certain sort of apex for traditional species of metal guitar work, you’ll be well served a strong presentation that retains some musical value over time. Every piece of ‘The Great Acceleration’ is almost too beautifully set in place and balanced by folks I’d consider talented pros (engineer/producer Lasse Ballade, mastering by V. Santura/Woodshed Studio) in production of this pristine modern thrash metal sound, still ‘old school’ biting enough (it makes Cryptosis‘ debut album sound way flat) but clean and dynamic enough to land sincere, grounded in physical work in a way that all thrash metal should be.

The first two singles released essentially reveal the first act and I’m not sure I would have lead with “Relentless Alteration” if only for the sake of it being the shortest piece, tightly ripped as the song is it doesn’t convey the full oeuvre the album has to offer and since it is an album with a relatively contiguous narrative the only other choice of presentation is “Terminal Dispatch” which already reads as a sort of muscular extreme metal influenced intensification of the vibe the opener presents. It all runs together smoothly as an introduction and there is no fault there but I’d say what develops beyond these opening pieces is what ultimately reads as remarkable beyond the expected high standards of technical/progressive thrash metal these days. That said, “Terminal Dispatch” does convey the classic speed metal influence that charms ‘The Great Acceleration’ as a whole via its central verse riff, just one small piece of the greater being that lends this ‘old school’ feeling to music which isn’t. If you’d felt Paranorm‘s album was just slightly to ‘new school’ in some of its expression I’d say you won’t have that issue here, especially if you’re forgiving about some of the Vektor style chord strangling early on. “Invention of the Shipwreck” is the keystone here and I’ll let you discover its bounty on your own, I’d rather focus on the additional impact of the last two pieces, with “Estranged Reflection” serving as a point of cooldown and presage for closer “Dromocracy”. Though the idea that “Invention of the Shipwreck” is the main event is an important thought this finale piece is equally valuable as an inspired finale that not only matches the grandeur of the middle act but does the best job incorporating elements of extreme metal voicing into their multi-generational tech-thrash arrangements. As we reach the ~4:40 minute point in the song a great chasmic reprieve features power chords and rolling fills beneath that eventually release the sort of tragedian dissolution of the narrative via guitar work. How they develop this into the exit of the song spanning several minutes is brilliant as an endpoint and conveys the outcome better than a wordy exit might’ve otherwise, it reads as class even if fairly simple and makes for a complete feeling revolution of the record every time.

As for the physical product and the greater art design I’d say the full painting by Ryan T. Hancock is the big seller here, colorful and dimensional but not overworked or muddy as some sci-fi art can be. The logo itself is nothing special for my own taste and does not compliment the artwork as a stark white sticker, looking a bit like those post-‘Black Future’ tech thrash demo band logos you’d find on Bandcamp back in the early 2010’s. Ah well, I’d still buy it on sight either way. Overall ‘The Great Acceleration’ is an impressive debut, as cliché as it might read on my part they’ve shown up so damned prepared for this first album that it sounds like they’ve been at it for years. The fact that I’m already curious where they’ll go next with this heady, very relevant core theme and impressive style is a testament to the easy immersion the release offers to existing fans of this particular style of progressive thrash metal. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:The Great Acceleration
RELEASE DATE:May 19th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Technical Thrash Metal,
Progressive Thrash Metal

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