It has barely been a day since we premiered a track from Terminus‘ upcoming The Silent Bell Toll and yet, here we are with a full review of the album. Why? Perhaps it’s because I haven’t been able to put this album for the few weeks since I first heard it; I think I’ve listened to it twice a day, almost every day. Perhaps a better reason is because it belongs to a sub-genre I would love to get more music from. You see, there’s this space often dubbed “pop-sludge” that’s inhabited by bands like Torche, Netherlands, and Lo-pan. The idea there is to take doom’s predilection for ponderous melodies and to merge that with brighter vocals and brighter guitar tones, often take from heavy metal rather than pop. But the pop signifier rings true here, as the sweeter vocals and solos give the sound a lighter, more immediately emotional and evocative feeling.
The thing is, it’s a pretty niche genre; we don’t often get releases in it and good releases are even rarer. This is a problem because I fucking adore this sound! There’s something about the mix that just works incredibly well for me. OK, this is where we come back to Terminus: The Silent Bell Toll exemplifies literally everything that is great about this sub-genre. The album is chock full of meaty, groovy doom riffs but they are balanced with scintillating, open chord riffs, majestic solos, and vocals so infectious that I guarantee you you’ll be singing the lyrics to yourself in no time. The overall blends means that the album goes hard but is also immediately emotional evocative, devoid of the stifled atmosphere that many doom albums can have.
Check out “Dying to Breathe” for example, the first “proper” track on the album. That opening riff is a doom fiend’s dream; the chords are thick and chunky, the tone is overdriven to all hell, and that groove section is going incredibly hard in the background, thickening everything into the smoky, heady mix the genre is so good for. The vocals aren’t even that sweet yet, punctuated by screams that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Mastodon or Anciients album. But the first, brief chorus changes everything; the chords are open on it, singing a sweeter melody before descending back into the murky depths of the main riff. The vocals also change, with the backing vocals blending with the main lines to create that sweetness we referenced above. The verse after the chorus maintains those changes, with the vocals taking on a more heavy metal, Ronnie James Dio vibe to them.
But here’s the thing: there are plenty of “oughs” still in the track, ushering in heavy as all hell riffs and sprawling solos. Terminus never, for once, give up on the heavier side of the equation. This is also true for the rest of the album; “The Lion’s Den”, which we premiered here yesterday, has one of the most stank face inducing riffs I’ve heard this year. It’s not a poppy album; it’s a pop-sludge album! The sludge, the doom, the heft, the punch, are all still there. I mean, if we flip forward to “The Falcon”, it has a Clutch/Red Fang style riff. The groove is real! But the lighter side of things is just as good, never relenting or cutting corners. The end result is exactly that energetic feeling that only pop-sludge can evoke; the end result is an album that you can’t not sing along to; the end result is an album that you can’t not headbang to. The end result is The Silent Bell Toll, one of my favorite albums of the year and one of the most moving and satisfying.
The Silent Bell Toll releases on August 10th. Please, for the love of all that’s heavy, go pre-order it. These guys deserve your support.