Terminal Nation - Echoes of the Devil’s Den (Cover Artwork)

Terminal Nation

Echoes of the Devil’s Den (2024)

20 Buck Spin

It seems like half a lifetime ago that Terminal Nation released Holocene Extinction. In fairness, it has been almost five years, and bear in mind it dropped immediately pre-pandemic, then that’s probably a key reason it feels like an even longer time. When Little Rock’s finest dropped that record, full of fury at the inhumanity they saw around them and with a gleeful lack of apologies for raging, directly and unveiled, against those injustices, it landed cleanly and powerfully. What was at that point, a fertile and burgeoning death metal/hardcore crossover scene, has become a sort of coalition of resistance, made up of the more politically minded bands across those genres in what continues to be something of a new golden era for both pockets of the extreme music world. The fact that Terminal Nation were overt in their beliefs, existed in a sonic meld of the two genres, and also possessed a real DIY ethic (checkmate out their ‘Bangin in the Rock’ festival lineups if you want to see how good they are at the DIY stuff, too) sure didn’t hurt. Add to this the secret ingredient; that they all seem to just be the best dudes. An interesting variable though, is that where the last record served as a kind of modern-day rallying cry for frustrated and mostly housebound heavy music fans, who were glad not only of the record, but of its willingness to channel their impotent rage; this record is released in different, but no less troubling times.

From the opening death knell and Carpenter synths, it’s clear that there is some new stuff going on in this new record. Within the first minute you also have a savage, death metal riff, a shameless ‘Blegh!’ straight out of the top drawer from Stan and then the band kick in, in earnest. The opening/title track really does set the record’s stall out well. The snaking lead lines that weave through the song’s last passage just hint at some of the all-out-war that is coming up in the record’s 40-odd minutes. When you consider the features on this record include Todd Jones of Nails, Zak Vargas of Elysia and Jesse Leach of Killswitch, then you can deduce that Terminal Nation’s music and ethos is being championed by not only some big hitters, but notably from across the extreme spectrum. You can probably make a good guess what the Todd Jones feature sounds like, but having dudes from deathcore or melodic metalcore bands turning up is maybe a little less obvious. What I will say is that Terminal Nation make actual use of their features, if you know what I mean? “Merchants of Bloodshed” for example (feat Jesse Leach). Jesse is not simply dropped in with a quasi-clean vocal, but the structure and tone of the song itself feels far more closely aligned to his style. And alongside the synths, raise the final 90 seconds or so to a completely new level. But then, outside of the features, there is clear evidence of the band’s growth and ambition. “Embers of Humanity” begins with contemplative and considered arpeggios that feel Jerry Cantrell inspired. The solo that comes immediately afterwards has both bombast and nuance, and basically spans the remainder of the c.3-minute song and doesn’t so much stretch TN’s musical boundaries as place a flag in a whole different territory. Which I find immensely exciting.

I would probably not be so gushing about this record if all of this growth and experimentation had come at the cost of Terminal Nation’s trademark violence. But to say that they have retained that aspect of their sound would be an understatement. Lyrically, there are some mainlining-coke levels of hype and rage in this record. The track I’m drawn to most is “No Reform (New Age Slave Patrol)”. Which if you hadn’t guessed what it’s about, hosts lyrics such as ‘There is no reform for the murder of children’ and ‘fuck every fucking cop who’s ever fucking lived’, amongst a bevy of others. These songs are going to go absolutely bananas in the live set. Then there is a drop just after 3 minutes into ”Release The Serpents” which is one of the most satisfying moments of music I’ve heard in years. Stan’s manic cackle that precedes it only adds to the theatre of it, yet it could never get anywhere near feeling hacky. It just feels right. That’s authenticity, I guess?

When it comes to production, then you get exactly what a vicious, HM2 HC/DM band deserves. Every member of the band plays out of their damn skin, the artwork matches the record’s sound beautifully (continues to blur the lines between the hardcore and more stylistically metallic elements). There are more bells and whistles this time around, but this still sounds like a band playing with their mates and wanting to tear someone’s head off. At no point does it not feel alive, in short. This is without question one of the best records, if not the best record, I’ve heard this year. It’s considered, fist-pumping, interesting, diverse, hard as fuck, and the replay factor is off the charts. Sometimes the right record comes along at the right time, in the right circumstances. I think this could well prove to be one of those records. The world is a dumpster fire so get fucking angry about it. Do not go gentle into that good night.