Sound — 9
Vektor's third official album "Terminal Redux" is one of those incredibly rare gems in the metal genre: a wheel re-inventor. Although having been formed in the early 2000's, it's only within the last five or so years that this thrash outfit have been making substantial waves.
Blending together the aggressive proto-death/thrash of early Slayer, Death and Kreator with virtuosity, prog rock and a whole heap of sci-fi inspiration, their previous album "Outer Isolation" turned into a recent sleeper hit with the rise of more technically minded metal becoming a big trend within the last six years of the genre as a whole. As such, with the five year gap between that and this album, there's a certain expectation for the band to trounce the already exceedingly original "Outer Isolation."
To say that they've pulled that off is an understatement. While the feel of thrash is still rife in the albums sound, ranging from the iconic kick-snare drum rhythms to the little bluesy bends in the lead playing every now and then, this album feels entirely new and almost outside of the thrash genre.
Jazz chord arpeggios alongside melodic maj7ths, emotive and thematic riff playing with the same kind of detail heard in an Opeth album, complex chord movements evocative of the more exploratory classical composers of the past: somehow all of this is neatly condensed into memorable hooks, coherent songs and movements. Added to that, the underlying "cosmic metal" sound heard in tech-death bands like Obscura, Atheist and Blotted Science permeates with a dissonance that brings the whole chaotic arrangement a discordant bleakness. Songs like "Pteropticon," "Psychotropia" and "LCD (Liquid Crystal Disease)" exemplify these traits.
But alongside that is also some of the most gorgeous examples of melody in metal, and considering this is thrash at heart, that's no easy achievement. "Charging the Void" and "Collapse" play around with so many different ideas that they evoke the "epic" style of Metallica's highpoint albums: big, complex pieces with many surprises (dreamy space choirs, the odd bass solo) and emotive elements that generate musical frissons in the same way oh-so-many potassium-into-buckets-of-water reactions produce explosions.
It's just that Vektor has taken that to such a unique and refined level that they've just increased the length of all the yardsticks.
There's only two minor criticisms to really make out from this album.
The track-by-track arrangement is a little bit all over the place, to the point where songs almost quite literally blend into each other. Considering how consistent thrash tends to be, one extended play of this album does become wearisome as riffs and techniques blur together with little dynamic interplay.
The other one being the drum sound. It's not egregious, but it's one of the more unfortunate side-trends of modern technical metal to use some form of sample replacement on the drums. That's what it sounds like even if that's not the intended effect or reality of the situation, which becomes a shame because of how spicy, clear and vibrant the snare on "Outer Isolation" was.
Lyrics — 9
One of Vektor's defining traits is the rather peculiar vocal style of frontman/guitarist David DiSanto. Originally, it could've been seen as a throwback to the more black metal-oriented roughness of "Black Future," but his distinctive high-pitched wail of the damned is such a well executed excess of "metalness" that it's all quite hard to pin down for criticism. Consider the fact that he plays the kind of demanding riffs that'd make Chuck Schuldiner cry at the same time and it makes his chosen technique all the more impressive.
Speaking of which, remember the opening vocal pyrotechnic in that "Painkiller" cover that Death did? Go listen to "Tetrastructural Minds" and hear where that legacy is being kept alive.
Lyrically, it's no secret that "space" is the order of the day, big ol' "space" stuff that does space things or something. Maybe on the face of it but the truth couldn't be further away from that mere glance at Vektor's impression.
Unlike "Outer Isolation" which had "space themes" on a track by track basis, somewhat underdeveloped ones in some cases, "Terminal Redux" is a fully grown concept that moves in story from song to song. The legend is of the cosmic entity known as Cygnus, the album tells of his arrival and fantastical struggle against ancient enemies of places he once knew (or something along those lines, it's rather complex).
Surprisingly fleshed-out for a concept, it could even be its own franchise-lore/universe, much like how Australian band Portal have their own spinoff of the Chthulu Mythos. It translates well to the actual recording too.
Overall Impression — 9
Given how much the thrash genre is bemoaned these days for being rather dried up and conservative, Vektor is doing amazing work. No apologetic understatements, this band might be one of the few that bring life back into the whole thrash scene. Not to put too much pressure on them or anything.
That being said, this album is already more than worthy of being AOTY. Irrespective of your favoured sort of thrash or metal in general, this is an absolute must have piece of art: a near-flawless execution of performance, a skillful foray into left-field composition and at the base of it all, a really good excuse to bang that head.
Songs to look out for: "Charging the Void," "Cygnus Terminal," "Ultimate Artificer," "Collapse," "Recharging the Void."