TITLE: TOTAL RETALIATION
LABEL: NUCLEAR BLAST
RATING: 7 /10
WORDS: HARRY HIGGINSON
Anyone paying close attention to Hardcore in the last 2 decades or so is probably already pretty clued in on Terror. Having been going for just over 16 years now, the band have made their name by crafting records full of throttling, metal-tinged hardcore punk, and by this point have essentially written the book on consistency for the subgenre. In a modern scene dominated by new trends, Terror’s complete resistance to evolution that has produced Total Retaliation offers a slice of pure, old school hardcore that’s just as entertaining as it was a decade and a half ago.
The first thing of real note on this record is just how tight the production feels. Courtesy of Fit for an Autopsy’s Will Putney (Thy Art is Murder, Knocked Loose), the mix on Total Retaliation has a lot of depth and quality, really bringing the best out of the band’s performances. The guitar tone has a nice bite to it, the drumming feels punchy and heavy, and frontman Scott Vogel sounds even more vicious than usual. Mixing aside, the record is essentially business as usual, packed full of breakdowns, gang vocals, chugging riffing and earnest fury, but this time around everything just feels a little tighter. There’s a certain pace to the first half, each track flowing nicely into the next and varying up Terror’s formula, letting some elements shine more than others. ‘Mental Demolition’ taps into the band’s propensity for brute force, for instance, whilst ‘Get Off My Back’s bass-driven, peppy intro gives way to thrashy verses and a strong, gang vocal-driven chorus, acting as an ode to not taking anything from anyone.
“a slice of pure, old school hardcore…”
The rest of the first half of the record is much of the same, with some tracks opting for a groovier feel, most notably ‘In Spite of These Times’, where Terror’s use of rhythmic simplicity and swagger isn’t dissimilar to something Pantera might’ve written. ‘Break the Lock’, in contrast, is blisteringly quick, boasting a runtime of under a minute and a half, and acts as a great example of a song not outstaying its welcome. The title track, ‘Total Retaliation’ is classic Terror, switching between blistering d-beats, and more groove-driven riffing. However, by the midpoint, it’s clear that the band’s trademark sound is as much a negative as it is a positive. Sure, the record’s opening is dynamic, pacey, and heavy, but by the title track’s close, some variety is much needed.
The less said about, the interlude, ‘Post Armageddon Interlude’, the better. This bizarre track is possibly the only outright misstep on the record, the awkward rapping and painfully outdated beat sounding like a poor imitation of DMX, and the fact it feels a welcome release from the onslaught of riffs can’t distract from just how corny it is.
“…big riffs, emotional lyrics, stomping breakdowns ….”
The latter half of the record is unfortunately a small drop in quality, with some strong tracks, but an increasing sense that the album is in danger of outstaying its welcome, as the need for variety goes unsolved. ‘Spirit of Sacrifice’ has some entertaining pace and a solid breakdown, and ‘Behind Bars’ decision to go in an outright thrash metal direction comes off well, from its Metallica-esque riffs to the entertainingly overblown guitar solo. Ironically, the highlight of this somewhat stagnant rear end, is titled ‘Resistant to Change’; anthemic, emotional, quintessentially vintage Terror, it closes the record well, but doesn’t quite make up for the tail end’s flawed execution.
In reality, ‘Total Retaliation’ is just more of the same from Terror – big riffs, emotional lyrics, stomping breakdowns, with a little extra pace mixed in, all just a bit tighter than previous releases, and that’s no bad thing. But as strong as the production feels, and despite solid performances across the board, the band’s consistency on this record betrays creative stagnation – a reasonably good record by all accounts, but the Keepers of the Faith might need to reinvent the wheel sooner rather than later to keep up their acclaim.