Vektor's debut album Black Future has been one of the greatest albums of the last ten years and with several new songs published and played live, the hype for Terminal Redux, five years after Outer Isolation, has been huge. In their third album, the guys have focussed their SciFi themed lyrics into a space opera concept album about a lost astronaut, alien molecules in stellar nebuli and the overthrow of the galactic Cygnus regime. Terminal Redux is easily their most ambitious album yet, no song is below five minutes and the utterly perfect production is instantly recognizable as Vektor's sharp and precise heavyness. However, the band also experiments with new elements that sometimes work - and sometimes don't.
Charging the Void starts out reminiscent of Cosmic Cortex, a nine minute high-speed technical show of power, that features a very on-point chorus and then turns into the intense, dense sound they've done before, only to resolve into the first big surprise of the album, a big epic, almost symphonic segment with a female backing choir (not joking). A very similar structure is also featured in its twin track, the 13:37 minute closer Recharging the Void. Personally I think it doesn't work as well as it could have, simply because the choir voices aren't "verbal" enough, meaning it's a lot of ooh-eeh-uuh-eehs and wohoo-hooohs but there are no substantial lyrics for them. It's a daring experiment, but in my book it failed because it clashes with most of the tone. In Charging, they at least manage to integrate it organically into the flow of the song, while Recharging stops being one thing and starts being another.
The following tracks Cygnus Terminal and LCD are more conventional Vektor material, and I mean this in the best possible way. The harsh, precise, powerful connects masterfully with the eerie, threatening parts. David and Eric are the Tipton/Downing of this decade, and their drummer Blake, known for his comparatively small kit, thrashes and whips the songs into shape. The interlude Mountains Above the Sun is a clear instrumental minute for the listener to catch a breath, before Ultimate Artificer, the first pre-released, now established live song and honestly one of the best things they've ever done totally steals the show. This is why I listen to this kind of music. Super catchy riffs, powerful rhythm, ultra technical guitar solos, heavy, eerie bridge, powerful release. 10/10, hats off lads.
Pteropticon, Psychotropia and Pillars of Sand are strong follow-ups. Pteropticon has the biggest internal range, from rockish groove to blastbeats and completely mad guitar-chases, Pillars of Sand brings another fantastic, instantly memorable chorus (TIME!!), but also grim crunching riffing in the front and sublime melodies in the back.
The one tracks that completely goes off the tracks is Collapse, which is a nine minute melodic, dare I say it, power-ballad? David actually does clean vocals on this, and while I applaud his effort to bring more variety to his vocals, it's just terrible. His voice doesn't work well in that range. Vektor can do wonderful instrumental stuff (see the middle of Accelerating Universe) that doesn't seem gruel or threatening, which would have worked here - instead, Collapse is a failed experiment.
In summary, Terminal Redux is super ambitious and adds a lot of fantastic songs to Vektor's portfolio, some of which among the best the they've ever done. However the really experimental elements either only work in the context of storytelling but are clunky as standalone songs, or they don't work at all. Terminal Redux is flawed, not because Vektor are doing old things badly, but because they're doing additional things and those don't necessarily connect. Still, one of the greatest young metal bands of our time.
Forteresse - Metal Noir Quebecois  [►]
The debut album from this, you guessed it, Canadian black metal group is lyrically all about history and patriotism. Judging by the music, it must have been a rather harsh past. Forteresse do unpolished, raw, haunted, shrieking black metal, the closest comparison I found was Weakling. The term "ambient black metal" is often used to describe their music, but it's not the neo-folk analogue klingklang or the Wolves in the Throne Room tone, but rather denser and tighter. The low-fi noise certainly contributes a lot to that effect. It's far from the blunt brutality of Blasphemy either. Forteresse's first album is a complete success, as their songs have a harsh haunting beauty to them that is driven by the constant tremolo. My biggest criticism is that it's just a bit too samey, but then again I haven't heard their newer stuff yet.
Uada - Devoid of Light  [►]
Another black metal debut album, this one ten years younger, comes from Uada from the US. Utterly different from Forteresse, Uada has a much clearer, heavier, more modern production and more distrinctive segments and songs. Much more successful that the recent Sinisterra from Mightiest, Uada gets to be melodic and heavy at the same time, sometimes putting in some rather death metal sounding parts, then turning back to the simple, repetative riffing that works so well for Inquisition. Even though it's thoroughly grim, it's rather accessible for a black metal record. Uada also sound very professional in both songwriting and execution and not much like a debut album at all, which some might say is because they're replicating a sound that's been done already, but I have to say they're stealing it really rather well.
Ripper - Experiment of Existence  [►]
Absolute no-fucking-nonsense, Ripper from Chile play modern death / thrash metal reminiscent of Kreator's Violent Revolution or Terrible Certainty, only fresher and more on point. With super tight songs, thrashing guitar violence that would make Exodus blush, roaring vocals and an unusually distinctive bass, Ripper hammer away, but not in blind abandon as demonstrated by their great instrumental interludes, but focused on competently putting together songs that work. And while it's super old-school in character, it's not just worship of late 80s early 90s metal, but has its own identity and worth. Again the only downside I can find is that the whole album is just a bit too homogeneous, so the songs all blend together after a while. Nevertheless, if you want the meanest, no-bullshit metal you can get, Ripper will tear you a new one.
Om - Advaitic Songs  [►]
When it comes to Sleep's successors, I could always connect more with the muscled power of High on Fire than the fuzzy rock droning of Om. "Advaitic Songs" has been criticized for lacking the heaviness of their first albums, but - and I know this is fucked up to say - that is what makes this my favourite record of theirs. Because it doesn't zone out in the low rumble alone but packs more layers on top of Al Cisneros' bass, it feels much richer. I can't properly really call it a rock album for most of the time when the rhythms and texture are much closer to...dub? Between the chants from secular music and the Arabic sounding percussions with the tambura, it's more than another stoner record. Sleep goes to Byzantium. I was and never will be one for "world music", but the bits and pieces that Om melt into their sound are beautiful.