The best part about bands with a completely unique identity is the way they not only differentiate themselves from other groups, but from their own sound with each subsequent release. This trait applies directly to Dysrhythmia and the vast field of other projects involving Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts, Vaura) and Colin Marston (Behold the Arctopus, Gorguts, Krallice). Along with drummer Jeff Eber, the trio have consistently churned out intricate compositional webs pulling primarily from math rock and prog metal. Essentially, if Primus played instrumental Death covers, it would probably sound a lot like Dysrhythmia’s back catalog.
The band have consistently twisted this formula over the years, never so far as to unleash a full reinvention but just enough to continue tweaking an already unique and creative style. Such is the case on Terminal Threshold, the trio’s eighth album and arguably their most direct foray into progressive death metal. Granted, we’re not talking full-on ground and pound deathgrind. Rather, the band have emphasized the tech-thrash, old-school prog stage of death metal across the album, emulating bands like Atheist, Death, and Pestilence. It’s incredibly effective and helps define a late career gem from the band.
This is perhaps most apparent on lead single “Twin Stalkers,” which opens with a resonant, rolling tom rhythm and layered dual guitar riffing. The motif is crunching yet melodic, shifting its pitch and progressions to continue branching out into new territory as the track develops. It strikes an impressive balance between memorability and exploration that makes a perfect centerpiece for the album.
Bookending the track are equally excellent versions of the band’s broad blueprint. Opener “Nuclear Twilight” has a noticeably thrashy feel from the onset, which the band eventually doubles down on towards the end of the song with some punchy riffs. Yet, per usual, none of Dysrhythmia’s guitar work ever feels linear; the band can seemingly throw an angular note or unexpected chord into the mix at a moment’s notice and still maintain the flow of the track. “Power Symmetry” and “Rule of the Mountain” unravel in much the same way, with several spacey guitar solos and atmospheric arpeggios being sharply interrupted by the band’s math metal murk.
Similar to “Twin Stalkers,” the guitar work on “Plague Delay” offers some genuinely catchy moments, especially with a repeating panic chord and guitar slide combo and some melodic exploration towards the conclusion. On the flipside, tracks like “Progressive Entrapment” are out for blood from the onset. Marston’s bass snaps and growls as sinisterly as ever, joining equally aggressive performances from Hufnagel and Eber.
Closing out the album, “Never Was Then Again” is the best example of my “Primus meets Death” analogy, with several plodding, off-kilter grooves leading the song’s percussive drive. Closer “Premonition Error” is the album’s shortest song but serves as a wound up sucker punch of ideas covering the gamut of the band’s ideas across the album.
There’s often a fair bit of apprehension when approaching the latest addition to a veteran band’s discography; will the creative energy continue to flow for another record? Dysrhythmia is one of a select group of bands where that will almost certainly never be a concern. No matter how many albums they release, the band never seems to run out of ideas. To the contrary, their music continues to grow more complex and enjoyable. Terminal Threshold is no exception, and just might rank among the finest releases Hufnagel or Marston have ever contributed to. Time will tell how that claim holds up, but for now, Terminal Threshold is certainly one of the most exceptional metal releases of the year.
Terminal Threshold is available now via Translation Loss Records.