Published Sep 25, 2018Terror's 2017 EP The Walls Will Fall was a perfected nine-minute crash course on hardcore essentialism, and a vital raised middle finger to anyone who doubted the group's consistency. Terror's prior albums, The 25th Hour and Live By the Code, faced varying critical laud. Last year's short and straightforward release was no prelude to 2018's Total Retaliation though, with 13 tracks to intake this time around. There is fat to trim from this hefty serving, but seemingly endless sweet spots along the way.
The one-dimensional introduction "This World Never Wanted Me" alludes to another prolonged and strenuous Terror full-length, but following tracks "Mental Demolition" and "One More Enemy" soon reward fans with menacing thrash riffs and well-paced mosh payoff. It is what one would anticipate the hardcore legends to do, but it hits just as stirringly as it did over a decade ago.
That is not to say Terror don't expand their palette on Total Retaliation; the latter track experiments with elaborate cymbal grooves and a vocal appearance from Denis Halilovic of Freedom, and the title track showcases Terror's most pristine songwriting skill to date through heated guitar solos and lively transitions.
Departing from the typical production format of drummer Nick Jett's home studio, the group has opted for Will Putney of Graphic Nature Audio to breathe new life into the Terror legacy. Vocalist Scott Vogel occasionally sounds weathered in the throat, but when he finds a unique tone between singing and screaming on "Break the Lock" he gives No Warning's Ben Cook a serious run for his money on vocal dynamism. Bouncy, slamming guitars provide climax on "In Spite of These Times" and "Get Off My Back" which have mannerisms of a lost early Biohazard track. "Behind the Bars" and "I Don't Know You" (featuring ex-Terror bassist and Down to Nothing frontman David Wood) are half-baked by Terror standards, but are a fun visitation to the anthemic styling of 2012's Stick Tight EP.
The biggest talking point of Total Retaliation is the rare feature from Kickback's Stephen Bessac on closing track "Suffer the Edge of the Lies." The notion that Bessac came out of hiding in Asia to cut vocals is a rarity in itself, but the song abruptly morphs from a standard Terror track to a missing song from his legendary and controversial French hardcore band's catalogue. It is both ludicrous and invigorating.
Moshy excellence aside, Terror are also more lyrically present on this outing. "Post Armageddon Interlude" touches on North America's polarizing and violent political climate, and Vogel arrives at provocative introspection and rehabilitation on "Spirit of Sacrifice." His time away from the band's touring schedule due to health issues was an absence that would usually damage the presence of most touring acts, but by the time the breakdown of the song hits, the album highlight cements Terror as an irresistible phenomenon that people will continue to swing limbs to in the long-term.
While Total Retaliation is most rewarding in small doses, Terror continue to demonstrate why they have always been at the forefront of the hardcore tribe. (Pure Noise)