May 17, 2016

Vektor - Terminal Redux

By Nate Garrett. Fans of Vektor have been waiting for Terminal Redux. It’s been five years since the release of the band’s previous effort, Outer Isolation. By that time, Vektor had firmly established itself as a distinctive force in the realm of heavy music. The motto “sci-fi or die” united metalheads, heshers, punks, skaters, bloggers
By Nate Garrett.

Artwork by Adam Burke.

Fans of Vektor have been waiting for Terminal Redux. It’s been five years since the release of the band’s previous effort, Outer Isolation. By that time, Vektor had firmly established itself as a distinctive force in the realm of heavy music. The motto “sci-fi or die” united metalheads, heshers, punks, skaters, bloggers, and all walks of weirdos around the world. Vektor brought people together. This rabid following was hard-earned and well-deserved. But five years is plenty of time for a fanbase to lose interest these days. Conversely, five years is also more than enough time for anticipation to run rampant, for expectations to reach levels that can’t possibly be fulfilled. Fortunately, on May 6, the release of Terminal Redux proved one thing. No matter how high a Vektor fan’s expectations were for this album, there is an infinitesimal chance that they won’t be exceeded.

David DiSanto, 2012. Photo © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

Opening track “Charging the Void” beckons the listener with an ominous intro that is swiftly vaporized by the band’s rocket-fueled attack. It’s evident immediately that we’re strapped in for another frenetic, mind-warping trip through the cosmos. What isn’t as obvious at first is that this album has more to offer than any thrash metal release has provided in decades. The stunning technical proficiency is present, and it’s somehow even more impressively precise than ever. Yet there’s more. Toward the three-quarter mark of this song, a confident sense of melody weaves its way into the sonic stratosphere. Suddenly vocalist/guitarist David DiSanto’s unearthly howls are met by a strange, angelic chorus, and the entire affair transforms into something wholly uplifting. Vektor’s music has always possessed a sort of energizing positivity, but this is beyond that. This is legitimately beautiful. It’s new territory for the band, and indicative of the compelling experience that awaits the listener on the rest of the album. Vektor has always been an ambitious presence amongst its peers, and with Terminal Redux the band has become totally uninhibited.

Blake Anderson, 2012. Photo © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

“Cygnus Terminal” begins with an eerie, enticing clean section reminiscent of the most forward-thinking of the classic thrash bands. This intro wouldn’t be entirely out of place on Ride The Lightning or The New Order, but at once is utterly Vektor. When the song takes off, it’s now undeniable that the band is intent upon delivering relentlessly catchy hooks, not only from the guitars, but from the rhythm section as well. As far as vocals go, DiSanto sounds more unhinged than ever, yet also more in control of his voice. He’s delivering his trademark mid-range growls with conviction, confidently experimenting with clean vocals (they work), and unleashing impossibly high shrieks that at times achieve unison with the wailing lead guitar. Bassist Frank Chin is also throwing caution to the void, flawlessly gliding through tasteful runs that are reminiscent of Cliff Burton, never excessive or masturbatory. These bass lines establish an undercurrent of tragedy, a hook beneath the equally melancholic yet catchy guitar interplay of DiSanto and Erik Nelson. It’s a given that drummer Blake Anderson has practiced along with these songs for countless hours, as he instinctively locks in with the bass runs or highlights the accents of the guitar parts, depending on what best serves the mood of the song. These first two offerings are testaments to the fact that this band has been playing together for a long time. These musicians possess the intuition and tangible magic that can only be attained through experience. They’re poised, channeling the same wavelength, and more adventurous than ever.

Erik Nelson, 2012. Photo © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

A track-by-track analysis of Terminal Redux would be a disservice to every potential listener. There are too many special moments lurking within, and part of the pure joy of listening to this album is the unexpected nature in which these moments reveal themselves. That being said, the rest of the songs on this album continue to pull the listener into a chaotic yet fully-realized vortex of brutally infectious riffs, spectacular musicianship, and brilliant songwriting. It’s all guided by an orbiting lunatic who waxes poetic within a surreal, inventive science fiction storyline. On Terminal Redux, Vektor reaches previously uncharted depths of heaviness, as well as unimagined heights of melody and sincerity.

Frank Chin, 2012. Photo © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to create something unique in any genre, without resorting to methods that are pretentious, misguided, or distractingly bizarre. Particularly within a genre like thrash metal, where membership cards are constantly questioned and sonic boundaries are strictly established, experimentation can be risky. Vektor manages to break the rules with grace and earnestness, while upholding and expanding upon the beloved spirit of the genre. The band’s approach is never forced or awkward, it flows naturally with a mature cohesion. The scope and ambition of Terminal Redux is astounding, but that doesn’t detract from the focused nature of the songwriting. Few bands are ever able to create an album that is this technically proficient and heavy, yet this profoundly moving and memorable. Vektor has accomplished precisely that. Terminal Redux launches this already great band into timeless territory. If you’re a fan of heavy music, you owe it to yourself to listen to this album. More than likely, you’ll be enjoying and analyzing it in equal doses for many years to come.

Nate plays in Spirit Adrift and Gatecreeper.
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