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don't fear the reaper's spiral architect - 65%

caspian, March 8th, 2018

Yknow in hindsight it's kinda strange that there's been no other albums that've used Asimov's Foundation as a concept for an album, or at least no other albums that are fairly big. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, mind, as while I'm sure it was one hell of a book at the time, a current read suggests it's the sort of fanfic written by a dude with a few photos of Tyson/Sagan/etc stuck together with a lot of dodgy looking tissues nearby.

Anyway, Terminus do a decent enough job, but I'm not convinced it's any sort of classic. They mine the same thing over and over again- epic 3/4 riffs, lots of big Wooooah-oh-oh, a fair few little dual leads around the place. I'm not saying the thing is terrible- there's plenty of good moments. That big old "Alchemy transforming stee-eeel" bit Traders is pure Manilla Road, in the best sense, Poseidon's Children has a pretty cool chorus and in general rips hard, coming across like a busier prime Visigoth cut. Perhaps it's just the accent of the main singer but when these guys get rolling in it's reminiscent of Solstice's New Dark Age, with a bit less doom and a bit more thrash influence, and Foundation lyrics swapped in for the relentless thesaurus abuse. I like the down tuning a fair bit- all the galloping parts have a fair bit of heft.

I guess the main problem with this is that for epic heavy metal, you can't just go full throttle all the time without a break. Pick any big epic album, new or old, and there's peaks and troughs, to keep the thing from sounding too flat. Terminus suffer from a severe lack of variety, and combined with the fairly limited vocal range of the singer, the result is one of general mehness. It hits a plateau early on and then goes nowhere, the whole time. That's fine if you're playing Reign in Blood or Back in Black. But if you're trying to tell a story and whatnot, then write some songs that go somewhere! The ok but fairly flat production doesn't really help either.

It's not the only album that does it; I call it the three song problem. If you picked any three songs from this and played them, they would sound completely killer. After nine songs of the same old stuff, though, it really drags.

Certainly not shit, and probably worth a look, as some of the songs do go fairly hard. It's not normally how I like to recommend stuff, but you'll probably get the most out of this album by mixing it into your gym playlist and throwing it on shuffle.

Bless My Atomic Steel This Night! - 91%

iamntbatman, December 20th, 2015

It's sort of an impossibility for me to talk about The Reaper's Spiral without talking about Visigoth's The Revenant King. Both albums have made significant waves in metaldom in 2015, widely hailed as strong efforts that manage to lay down some really memorable riffs and vocal lines while pulling from a range of influences to create songs that are steeped in heavy metal tradition yet which sound really fresh. Further still, though, the two bands' actual approaches to heavy metal have a lot in common, there are key differences that set them apart and, to my ears, make each band truly unique and worthy of spin after spin.

First, the similarities. Both bands favor pounding, anthemic midpaced riffs with a lot of swagger and groove, using slowed-down doom tinged bits and high octane speedy passages as garnish to their muscular, rocking main approaches. They've got similarly big, heavy, burly guitars and their riffs both remind me a lot of bands like Sinister Realm in particular, with a good dose of Grand Magus. People also really liked to talk up the Manilla Road influence in Visigoth, perhaps partly due to the presence of the "Necropolis" cover right smack in the middle of their album, but I felt that track was really out of place as the songwriting approach clashed against Visigoth's original material and therefore stuck out like a sore thumb.

The Manilla Road influence is more evident in Terminus. Instead of the strapping bravado of Visigoth, James Beattie sounds like he's channeling Hellroadie doing his best Mark Shelton impersonation, if in delivery far more than actual tone. Beattie's got more control and sings in a lower register, but the way he paces the syllables of his delivery and warbles his notes gives me distinct Manilla Road vibes. I also get hints of Slough Feg and Borrowed Time, both very welcome influences indeed.

One of my (minor) complaints about The Revenant King is that it feels too much like a collection of songs rather than a cohesive work. Each song is an epic journey, with all sorts of twists and turns and unexpected yet perfect shifts into trudging doom or ripping speed metal to accentuate the narratives contained within each track, but the album as a whole lacked a unifying theme or vision. The Reaper's Spiral fares far better in that regard. The shorter tracks work together as individual movements within the greater piece, each standing on its own as a powerful chunk of heavy metal mastery yet also working to contribute to the album's flow and themes.

I also applaud the production. Visigoth were perhaps a bit too polished and modern sounding to me, but in comparison the recording here is a lot grittier, with a bit of scum on the guitars, a much warmer overall feel and some really nice live-sounding effects on the often double-tracked vocals. Every instrument is as clear as day, mixed to perfection, with only the presence of some clearly overdubbed guitar leads (not all of them - only here and there does the band utilize this technique) and vocal dubs betraying the fact that this was not recorded entirely live in the studio.

I imagine a lot of you are fairly well annoyed with my constant Visigoth comparisons throughout this review, especially since I've encountered some cynicism among folks who don't rate that album quite as highly as I do, but rest assured that despite all the similarities, there's still a great many things to set Terminus apart from their peers from across the pond. The shorter songs, more organic production, less bombastic but equally captivating vocal performance and unifying sci-fi theme and album structure give a unique flavor to The Reaper's Spiral, but the earworm riffs, really cool sci-fi/fantasy lyrics, soulful guitar leads and finely crafted songs (if you can't get down with a track like "Fortress Titan" then I think heavy metal may just not be for you at all, for example) are what really makes this great. Definitely one of the top heavy metal releases of 2015 and one that I can't envision leaving regular rotation in my listening habits for a long time to come.