Monday, June 6, 2016

Vektor – Terminal Redux

Vektor is simultaneously the best and worst thing that has happened to thrash metal in the past 25 years. Since the dying breaths of numerous great acts in 1991, this subgenre of metal has struggled like no other. Of course, there were numerous great bands over the next 15 years or so (Dekapitator and Hypnosia come to mind), but it wasn’t until the late 00s when it seemed like thrash was starting to come alive. And almost as quickly as interest in thrash was renewed, it died off. By no means do I blame Vektor for this, but the sad reality is that they are so good that their existence has turned a lot of people off of other thrash metal artists. We know that there is no other band quite like them (despite the numerous groups who have tried to emulate them for the past couple of years), but this isn’t an excuse to ignore every other thrash band. This effect has only been amplified over the past 5 years, as fans grew impatient for the band’s third record, “Terminal Redux”.

The band certainly delivered in terms of the quantity of material. Eclipsing the 73-minute mark, “Terminal Redux” is probably everything you expected and more. Throughout the record, these juggernauts of thrash retain their head-twisting brand of riffing, complete with incredibly technical passages, strange melodies, and dissonant chords. Unwilling to chain themselves solely to the thrash namesake, they offer up plenty of blastbeats in an effort to move towards black metal at times. Perhaps even more outside the box is the band’s inclusion of choirs on the appropriately named “Charging the Void” and “Recharging the Void” (the songs opening and closing the record). Though a bit jarring at first, they add some welcomed variety to the band’s extreme sound. The latter song is a bit overlong, but it picks up a lot at the end, while the former track, “Charging the Void” features one of the wickedest heavy sections to date in a Vektor song, as there is a strange, brooding guitar buildup that is quickly complimented by David DiSanto’s tormented voice.

Tormented is the key word to describe his style of singing: if you’ve heard the band before, you know that his shrieks, screams, and wails cannot be healthy for the vocal chords, and that is more apparent than ever on “Terminal Redux”. Taken in the context of the album, he sounds pretty good here, as he’s still able to pull off all of those demented sounds, but a quick comparison to songs from “Black Future” and “Outer Isolation” will reveal that he’s unable to sustain the ferocity he once had.

Perhaps the bigger surprise from DiSanto is his willingness to explore the softer side of his vocals. This is evident on the band’s most ambitious track to date: “Collapse”. It’s not new for thrash bands to incorporate ballads, but generally, once bands get as heavy as Vektor (particularly vocally), it is rare for them to explore this territory. And while DiSanto is by no means a technically skilled singer when it comes to clean vocals, he fits the sci-fi atmosphere of the band. This sound is most effective when he takes a cue from Glen Benton and decides to harmonize both of his vocal styles at the same time. “Collapse” builds and builds thanks to the surprisingly fitting combination of mediocre clean vocals and disgusting screeching. It sounds unappealing, but it is incredibly mesmerizing. Ultimately, "Collapse" is the best song on the album, largely because it shows a willingness to move even further outside of the box.

The three songs that have been mentioned so far are definitely the most experimental on the record, but they also display plenty of classic Vektorisms. It is the remaining songs, however, that are more consistent in this approach. And this is really the band’s biggest flaw. Music is incredibly effective when there is contrast, and much of this record has none. Yes, every single riff crushes the entire careers of certain bands, but when there are 300 of these riffs on a single album (I didn’t count, but it’s quite likely they topped “Time Does Not Heal”), the standouts are few and far between because they need to be even better. A great example is “Cygnus Terminal”. This track sounds like exactly what you’d expect from Vektor, but it doesn’t really have too many moments that you can recall when it’s over. It struggles to sustain its 8+ minute runtime.

When the band really rolls, it is because they do something that sounds just a bit more inspired than their normal sound. “Ultimate Artificer”, for example, has a wicked ringing set of chords near the chorus that is instantly memorable. By packing all of their ideas into 5 minutes, Vektor created a track worthy of tons of replay. You aren’t left waiting for the one or two really cool parts like on “Cygnus Terminal”.

And to be fair to the band, they are able to pull off some of the longer songs that are in their traditional style. “LCD (Liquid Crystal Disease)” is undoubtedly one of the band’s most impressive works. The guitar work is flashy and acrobatic, as the band injects wild licks into the middle of riffs. It doesn’t hurt that the song also opens with some stellar lead playing. To top things off, Vektor delivers an eternally heavy riff after the 3 minute mark, which provides excellent contrast to the mostly lead-guitar focused nature of the song.

Though the remaining tracks on this album aren’t quite as potent, both “Pteropticon” and “Psychotropia” provide their share of highlights. “Pillars of Sand” is the only song aside from “Cygnus Terminal” that doesn’t quite meet expectations, largely because it doesn’t stand out amongst the madness that occurs on the rest of the album. “Mountains Above the Sun” is a very cool interlude, with its only flaw being that it is too short (and that’s the only time I’ll ever say that about anything on a Vektor record). The ending of this song offers up excellent bluesy riffing that would be welcomed even in a full-length Vektor song, and definitely had room to expand upon during this track. 

When all is said and done, “Terminal Redux” is another stellar Vektor record. It isn’t anywhere near the best thrash album of the last couple of decades, but it is certainly among the most inspired. An immense amount of respect is due to a band that takes a subgenre that is somewhat limited in sound and manages to expand it in new directions. While there certainly are some valid criticisms of “Terminal Redux”, the only real problems are its length and intensity. The consistent willingness to go 100% (except “Collapse”) makes enjoyable thrash songs feel commonplace and boring. This fact is compounded by the 73-minute runtime, and cutting even just a couple tracks would make this a much more manageable record. Nevertheless, this album was more than worth the 5 year wait, and it’s easy to see why Vektor is the most unique band in all of thrash!

Be sure to check out and like Vektor on Facebook!

"Charging The Void"
"LCD (Liquid Crystal Disease)"
"Ultimate Artificer"

Final Rating
4.6/5 or 92%. 

Written by Scott

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