Review: Terminal – R.A.T.S.
Doomgaze is back, baby!
Back on the blog, that is; Terminal arent’t back from anywhere, this being their first record. They’re also not using the term in their tags or any of their promo material, but damn it, I know it when I hear it, and this is most definitely probably it.
What is “it”? From what I’ve seen so far, the term is loose enough to fit a lot of different things as long as they touch a few cornerstones, most notably the slow tempo of doom (duh) and the melancholic, wistful energy of shoegaze (no shit), optionally incorporating some electronic elements. In short, it’s slow and sad music. Looking at the tags that the band do use reveals a combination that might be close enough: “doom,” “industrial,” and “post-punk,” among others. I would argue that the doomgaze of it all lies in how these are combined; the music is less snappy than other post-punk, less crushing than other doom, and less harsh than other industrial music. Terminal can be heavy and loud, but at their core, they remain quite tender—which you might not expect given the Bestial Devastation style intro of the first track.
More instances of harsh vocals appear throughout the album, but cleans are predominant and often the focal point of the songs. The fatigued, melancholy vocal lines of songs like “The Seer,” “Network of Desire,” and “Breathing of the Earth” lend a forlorn beauty to the industrial-tinged doom that they rest on. Fittingly complemented or directly supported by female guest vocalists throughout most of the album, they’re what first drew me in to the music and remain the highlight.
The different vocal and musical styles of Terminal find themselves most densely juxtaposed in the title track. Thriving mostly on a post-punk vibe, the calm yet disdainful spoken word delivery of the main vocalist is contrasted by the airy vibe of both the music and Pia Isaksen’s beautifully sung repetition of the final lines of each verse. She is further tasked to balance out the snarling harsh vocals when they finally get their own verse, which is bracketed by stabs of harsh industrial noise accompanied by a descending chord sequence.
These moments of aggression rear their heads occasionally, but most of the time, industrial and other electronic elements are implemented subtly: the rise and subsequent drop in the opener, the blown-out beat underpinning the trumpet in “The Path,” the distorted chain gang sample in “Breathing of the Earth,” and of course, the programmed drums, which sound mechanical but never approach the machine-like oomph I associate with industrial music. All this serves to subtly prime a listener for “Lost Embrace,” which is an outlier with its robotic brutality, yet doesn’t feel like it’s coming out of nowhere. Building on all we’ve heard up to this point, even its boisterous wub-wub bassline hardly elicits a question mark.
Terminal consistently display this knack for binding together disparate moods, seamlessly going from sad to angry or from wistful to ominous, congealing everything into a whole that still makes sense. Something menacing is always bubbling underneath the calm atmosphere, so the moments where it breaks free feel more like a bill coming due rather than an unexpected punishment. It’s experimental music, for sure, but while it may not make use of classic verse-chorus song structures and can change lanes quite swiftly, it still maintains an admirable focus and accessibility, so much so that it feels like the end result could indeed be subsumed under one genre tag, particularly one that leaves as much wiggle room as doomgaze*. Insanely well-crafted for such a left-field debut, R.A.T.S. gets an intensely emotional
4 out ov 5 Flaming Toilets
R.A.T.S. is available digitally and on cassette via Trepanation Recordings on Bandcamp.