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Salome's Terminal is a violent, swirling, quasi-indecipherable near-masterpiece, an exponential outgrowth from the rather mundane trappings of traditional doom. This trio has hit the kill-switch with a record that will one day be regarded as evolutionary, an integral new facet in metal's forever branching family tree from which new growth shall emerge. Too bad the band had to implode in order for such a commanding step-forward to happen.
Compared to their debut and recent splits, Terminal bears impressive, nigh-impossible fruit. The band takes command of their songwriting, honing listener expectations with seamless integrations of experimentation. These songs sing their antecedents (Killing Joke, Swans, Godflesh, Eyehategod) without aping them, forcing those templates into new and heady stews of overpowering, toxic sludge. Compositions are formed at left angles, songs take divergent turns, and yet there is a distinct catchiness, a pattern to the process which keeps these songs in your head for days. Even the mindless swirl of 'An Accident Of History,' which admittedly drones on past the breaking point, harnesses a cohesive idea -- take the excruciating sounds of early Sonic Youth and Merzbow and feed them back into the post-metal machine.
And in this newly emergent era of sound-bytes, downloads, singles not albums, slick gloss and over-compression, Salome makes an unexpected throw-back to the concept record, the challenging listen that demands several uninterrupted listening sessions to digest. And by doing so they somehow manage to sound both forward thinking and retro – this album requires an old-school attention span for its entirely contemporary and progressive music making. This alone makes Terminal a very refreshing and powerful album that I suspect will have tremendous staying power despite the collapse of the band itself.
And for all my previous talk of pioneering female vocalists in extreme music, I must admit that hearing Kat now, I hear her predecessors less. Her voice, her command, her ability to juggle a wide vocal range has all improved in the last two years alone, becoming distinct, unique, and singularly powerful. She has become an entity alone -- one of the best vocalists in heavy music, period. Her voice is no longer buried in a muddy mix. It is stronger, more forward and the music benefits greatly from this emphasis. As the guitars unfurl and drums bash with staggered abandon, it's Kat's vocals which it draw it all together -- her voice is a laser point on which to focus when the entropy of structure sets in, when the songs lose their moorings and leave the listener fumbling in the darkness.
This sense of collapse is everywhere on Terminal, an implosion of heaviness that truly crushes and buries all it touches. From the hypnotic, mind-numbing heaviness of 'Master Failure' to 'Epidemic's near-senseless twists and turns, a jagged highway of strewn corpses unfurls. Not unlike the recorded output of Neurosis, Salome's Terminal is not meant for a casual listen. It's heaviness is not the comforting familiar that blankets most doom and sludge bands with an easy, lazy sound. There's dissonance and atonality everywhere, smothering 'The Unbelievers' as if it were an unwanted child. One I hope others will adopt now that Salome is gone.