As the “traditional heavy metal revival” continues, its sheen wears off. Where the novel reigned, a sound conjured back from the beginning of metal’s evolution, now tropes and structures are back in play. Who are you conjuring seems to be the most pertinent question now, with bands falling squarely in this camp or the other. Now, the reaction seems to be obvious: we choose one or two camps and enshrine them as The Best, the correct way to throw back to metal’s first days. This comes easy to us as fans, especially when nostalgia has its hands firmly on our wheel; cataloging and judging is what we do best. Instead, I’d like to offer that we do things differently this time around and try and “use” the opportunity that the traditional heavy metal revival has presented us with to celebrate the origins of metal for what they were: excellent music.
Therefore, I won’t bother you with listing the bands which Traveler, a Canadian forerunner of the heavy metal revival, draws inspiration from. It should be very obvious in any case, since the band wear their influences on their sleeve. Instead, I just want to review this album on its own merit and that merit is plenty; Termination Shock, the band’s second full length release, is a moving, punchy, momentum filled release, chock full of fast riffs, blazing solos, and soaring vocals. It takes the tropes of heavy metal and injects with the passion and depth of expression which was always theirs, which is what made them great to begin with. There’s a reason heavy metal birthed metal as a popular genre and that’s because it fucking rocked.
Just throw on “Foreverman” and you’ll see what I mean. The main riffs is dexterous and powerful, wasting no time in setting up the energy of the track. The bass and the drums support it with the classic gallop beat (thanks Steve Harris, whoops there’s those inspirations) to an excellent degree, present enough in the mix to lend the overall sound the solidity and punch it needs without overwhelming the guitars. Lastly, the staple of every great heavy metal records: the vocals. The vocals on “Foreverman” and, indeed, on Termination Shock in general are excellent. Their first and most present mode is the high pitch, treble filled, vibrato heavy sound that is as heavy metal as a guitar solo. But the vocals come show multiple styles and these lead with a lower, more full kind of timbre which works really well in supporting and augmenting the main vocals (check out the opening of “Diary of a Maiden” for an example).
Of course, how could we talk about a heavy metal album without mentioning the solos? I’ll be honest with you; I’m actually not a huge fan of guitar solos. Naturally many of them are great but I find that they’re overrated, often time taking up more than they’re worth on a track’s runtime. Which is why I love Traveler’s solos; they are fast, smart and, most importantly of all, they make you feel something, rather than just putting on a show for technicality to be displayed. The trick is to always work them back into the track, so they don’t live alone in their own little weird glass box of notes; check out the aforementioned “Diary of a Maiden” for a good example. The solo(s) there are extensive but they work alongside the track, “talking” to the main riff and the other instruments, given context for their badassery. Yeah, I wrote badassery. Deal with it!
Long story short, Termination Shock absolutely slays. It’s a heavy metal album that stands on its own, even though it triggers a whole lot of nostalgia for a long list of legendary bands. The music is Traveler’s own and it is expertly crafted while it converses with, calls on, and works in plenty of classic tropes from the original metal genre, the big one, Almighty Heavy Metal. You know what to do: play it loud!
Termination Shock was released on the 10th April . You can buy it via the band’s Bandcamp page above.