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A different kind of awesome - 87%

Feast for the Damned, August 1st, 2020

When I learned that the Traveler sophomore was on its way, I wanted the album to be flawless and I wanted it to exceed the debut. Not an easy feat considering that the self-titled was one of, if not my absolute favorite of the last decade, but I was still hoping that the band would surprise me. And they indeed surprised me by releasing the album two weeks earlier than they previously announced to. After freaking out for 10 minutes straight, I devoted the rest of my day to listening to this as much as I could and experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions that came with its differences compared to the debut.

At first, I thought this was a massive downgrade. Production is missing that slightly dirty edge that made the debut so good, the guitars are often shifting towards the style of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest instead of the powerful, almost speed metal leaning sound they had. Changing the elements that made them different from most of the NWOTHM bands is something I don't quite understand, but as time went on, it started growing on me more and more. Tracks that didn't capture my attention at first started to sound a lot better. For example, the title track weirded me out ever since they released it as a single. But the more I listened to it, the more I started to appreciate its uniqueness. Jean-Pierre Abboud delivers some relatively straightforward vocals up until the guitar solo which is followed up by the climax of the song where he slows down, shifts tone, and sings his guts out for a couple of lines with some hints of epicness.

The album is far more varied vocal wise than its predecessor was and this results in the most memorable parts of the album. It's not about anthemic choruses anymore, the calm clean parts are the real deal. Diary of a Maiden has one of these parts and it perfectly sets the stage for the Maiden-like galloping that comes later. And if that wasn't enough, the band has their first-ever power ballad on here. After the Future was so uncharacteristic from the band singing-wise that I initially thought that they had a guest vocalist. Everything is great about the vocals honestly. The range, the style, the sound, the variety, however that's not all the album has to offer.

The basslines bear the same qualities as they did on the self-titled. It's audible and it serves its purpose, but I can't help but feel that it worked better with the other record. Not that there are glaring issues here, they just don't stand out as much. On the contrary, I feel the drum sound improved a lot. It's mainly because the cleaner production, but our guy behind the kit also made it extra special for us with Deepspace.

Termination Shock is a great album, no doubt about that, but what puts it below the self-titled for me is the production. The clean sound works well with the drums, but otherwise, it makes the songs lack that little edge, the little sexiness that tracks like Street Machine or Speed Queen had. That being my only complaint, I'm fairly certain that I'll be still spinning both this and the debut five years from now. Can't wait to hear what they come up with the next time.

The highlights of the album are After the Future, Diary of a Maiden and Deepspace.

Tough Pill to Swallow - 81%

TimeDoesNotHeal, June 24th, 2020

Traveler really, really started out with a bang. The first three tracks on their 2019 self-titled debut LP were far and away some of the best traditional heavy metal I'd heard in a long time. The band's great guitar riffs were punctuated by absolutely infectious vocal hooks and choruses. As it turns out, those three tracks were the best three on the album, and while the rest of it wasn't bad, it was something of a letdown. I was hopeful that whenever they next put out any music, they'd turn things around and build off the strengths of that opening stretch of their album. It turns out I didn't have to wait very long, as the band's second album, Termination Shock, emerged this past spring.

At first, I was bitterly disappointed. Where were those hooks? Why did the vocals sound so different? Where's "Behind the Iron", goddammit? As I often do, I forced myself to listen to it several more times, because hey, I might as well get my money's worth. It still didn't click for me until one day when, for whatever reason, it did. Maybe I learned to throw away my prior expectations, maybe it was Stockholm syndrome. Whatever it was, I can finally appreciate Termination Shock for what it is: a very solid metal album, even if it's not a great one.

Despite the change in approach, vocalist Jean-Pierre Abboud is still in top form here, ranging from gritty mid-range to triumphant falsetto, and he's backed up by a band that has pivoted their style towards a more speedy sound that would sound right at home in 1987, as opposed to the debut's homages to the sounds of 83' or '84. The speedier moments are among the album's high points, such as the eerie title track and the savage "Deepspace". That's not to say that there aren't still the requisite Maiden and Priest homages at play here, just take a listen to some of the guitar harmonies in closing track "Terra Exodus" or the Halford-esque yelps in "STK", which harken back to "Starbreaker" from Traveler's debut.

There are still some tracks that don't grab me, even if the stronger songs make up for it. "Diary of a Maiden" features memorable clean verses, but the rest of the song, the longest one on the album, strikes me as kind of generic. "After the Future" is pretty forgettable for the most part, although it builds to a nice crescendo towards the end. On a more positive note, the guitar soloing is still great and super memorable, a holdover from the debut. Don't get me wrong, this is still a good album and one I would recommend to anyone who likes old USPM or traditional metal, I guess I'm more comparing it against how good I know Traveler can be and has been in the past. My hope for their future is that they combine the positive, speedier elements of Termination Shock with the anthemic qualities of their debut. If they can do that, the future for Traveler looks bright.

Future Shock, Heavy Metal Shock, Termination (Shell) Shock - 94%

CHAIRTHROWER, May 7th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Independent

It's only the logical conclusion. that Calgarian heavy metal stalwart Traveler (Earthside). would, in time, churn out a whooping fantastic sophomore full-length album. by sheer kick-ass name of Termination Shock -- all Terminators approved!

Suffice it to say, the Albertan, yet non-corporate, jigsore quandary that is the keen amalgam of fellow provincial metal powerhouses Striker/Riot City, in bassist Dan Arnold and drummer Chad Vallier, with equally Canadian (but not frozen) adventurists Matt Ries and Toryin Schadlich on rocket axe - helmed by none other than killer American inflection'ist Jean-Pierre Abboud (of Borrowed Time renown), throws down with all the might in the known Universe the second time around, beginning with downright astounding triptych of openers in "Shaded Mirror", "Termination Shock" proper (an astral dead-ringer for Montreal's Metalian, in terms of vocals) and, possibly, personal fav, riff-wise, "Foreverman". Duly, Traveler has celestially sorted out all the kinks in its space armour, cementing thus proper place in the traditional heavy metal pantheon: that is, upfront and centre, with likes of Ambush, Freeways, Lady Beast, Sanhedrin and War Dogs, to name an unruffled few.

Even mid-placed, six-minute long intertwine'r aka pseudo-ballad a la "Fallen Heroes" (from hypothetical/mythical B-Side of titular Traveler debut, from 2018) aptly named "Diary of A Maiden" kicks serious ass*; Hell, this is no "petite fillette" ditty akin to Sortilege's Larmes de Heros (circa 1986). Rather, it encompasses a stupendously Halford-esque Abboud - in sonic/cryonic/bionic realm & rhythm as JP's penultimate ultimatum "Beyond the Realms of Death", unto its magnificently classical, finger-tapped and effortlessly-eased lead section, complimented, in time, by the lyrically stark, albeit dazzling, "STK" which follows suite...and what a sweet! Seriously, fellow mages, the licks, leads, and lashes (pr)offered herein slay, in both technical proficiency and emotion. Surely, they're of the flame broiled variety (with extra secret sauce), whilst J.P.'s crooning odes bring to saliently savaged mind Bruce Dickinson, He of exultant commercial air flight and hot blond stewardesses in Fear of the Dark T-Shirts...

Ahem, a bit of a departure, too, but instantly likeable - like the Inner Hebrides island of Iona, where, legend has it, over sixty kings reside, buried yonder - is "After The Future", a wild, worm-hole traversing route insofar as self-act identity and reliance, in addition to vocal prowess of a highest magnitude, are concerned, from which there's no turning back. (Lest it's for a self-imposed, impish stab in the back!) Of note, it's also where the battery imposes itself most mightily; for certain, a wickedly innovative and bold track.

Monkeyshines aside, and for what it's worth, Traveler's latest, Termination Shock, merits full accolades, if not perfect score, altogether. Even its more or less congruent and as-ripping pair of closers, "Deepspace" (in particular, with its "Sea of Madness" reminiscent super shuffle as well as ever-bopping, flowing mega-stride) and longer, yet unequivocally punk-ish, "Terra Exodus" fully assuage true (black, grey, white and blue) Traveler affinities...

(Now, isn't it masterfully uncanny how this latent improvement remains perfectly accountable for, with a stylish eight numbers topping the super vinyl conducive forty minute mark?!)

*An ulterior glance through my archives reveals, upon digestion of said track's historical poignant lyrical content, potential allusion(s) to Louise Renée de Penancoët de Kéroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth (5 September 1649 – 14 November 1734) and Gallic mistress of England's King Charles II. (So it went!)

Just superb heavy metal - 93%

DMhead777, April 27th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Independent

Traveler's self titled debut was one of my favorite albums last year. In fact, it was in my top three albums and I still jam out to it constantly. They had an extremely raw sound which is different from most bands nowadays. Everything must be polished and sound fantastic. For heavy metal, I think it's pretty ballsy to release an album that sounds like it could have been made in the 80s. With this new record, Traveler has added production value, but doesn't sound too perfect. It's pretty much right where I want my heavy metal to be. I put a lot of pressure on Traveler in my head. I wanted this follow up to be great and it delivered on almost all levels. "Termination Shock" is definitely in my top albums of 2020.

What made 2019s "Traveler" so good in my eyes is of course the music, but the lyrics are absolutely perfect. They felt so real and personal to me. I felt like it reflected on actual real world problems and performed with class. On "Termination Shock" that impact of the lyrics doesn't feel too down to earth. In fact, they dabble with sci-fi and fantasy oriented lyrics. I'm pretty cool with this as I love that stuff anyway, but it was a slight disappointment that the lyrics didn't hit so close to home this time around. I'm not saying the lyrics are bad though. I love the way the title track reminds me of Alien (1979) as some outbreak on a space ship. Traveler does a wonderful job with the world building and makes me feel like I am in the space ship with them. The harmonies are absolutely unreal and I feel like it's the best song on the album.

Once again the guys are going full forced instrumentally. As much as I loved their self-titled debut, I felt like Traveler played it safe at times. While this is still generally labeled as heavy metal, there are definitely times where they are pushing speed to incredible levels. "Deepspace" is fucking crazy and borders on speed metal for most of the song. It definitely matches the lyrics with "g force rattles all the fibers in my system". There are a ton of tempo changes in these songs. "Deepspace" may start out fast paced, but towards the middle it takes a break, only to go back to that speed with a deadly solo to finish out the song. The solos on this are basically perfect. Matt Ries is a fucking monster and each one of his solos sound distinct and perfect for that individual tune. I don't use the word "perfect" all too often, but musically "Termination Shock" is as close to perfect as you can get. For fuck sakes, the last two minutes of "Diary of a Maiden" is basically a solo.

This album is very close to flawless. It trumps their debut album in almost every way besides the lyrics. Of course that is a personal opinion that many people will disagree with. I just dig their style more when they talk about more down to Earth topics. It's not a deal breaker in any way and I'm sure will grow on me on future listens. The musicianship on "Termination Shock" is just unreal and has these fantastic harmonies that elevates each song so that it could be a single. Every song is a standout song. "Termination Shock" absolutely delivers and I wouldn't be surprised if it remains in my top three albums for 2020.

Recs: "Termination Shock", "Shaded Mirror", "Diary of a Maiden", and "Deepspace" (but seriously, just buy the record)

Avalon! - 90%

Twisted_Psychology, April 13th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Gates of Hell Records

It’s easy to imagine Traveler’s second full-length album as just an extension of their debut. After all, Termination Shock is coming out just barely over a year later, and the cover art even features the same sort of color scheme and space horror imagery. The album certainly doesn’t stray too far from the band’s traditional metal foundation, but that style seems to be pushed to much further extents this time around with a headier attitude behind it.

Traveler’s debut was a pretty fast-paced affair, but this album pushes those speeds to greater intensities. In addition to the tempos themselves being faster, the musicianship feels more aggressive with the guitar rhythms having a sharper edge and the drums having more power behind them. The title track’s precision sounds like Harry Conklin fronting Thundersteel-era Riot, “Foreverman” and the closing “Terra Exodus” are sufficiently anthemic, and the rawness of “Deepspace” takes the group’s early Helloween aspirations to downright uncanny heights.

Of course, the album also takes the time to expand its dynamics to more melodic ends. “Diary of a Maiden” (I definitely keep reading that as Madman) is the most abstract that the band gets thanks to its more mid-tempo pacing, and smooth guitar flourishes. I also love how the soft introduction of “After the Future” reminds me of Bruce Dickinson’s “Tears of the Dragon” before venturing off in a more dramatic direction that sounds like something off Pharaoh’s Bury the Light.

As much as Traveler’s debut makes for more fun sing-along fare, Termination Shock is a stronger, more fleshed out venture. Its faster speeds make for plenty of adrenaline-fueled headbangers, but there are enough outlying tracks to invite the potential for further growth beyond a flash in the pan presentation. It may still be a little too derivative to convert any skeptics, but classic metal fans who liked the first album just might like the second even more.

Highlights:
“Termination Shock”
“After the Future”
“Deepspace”
“Terra Exodus”

Originally published at Indy Metal Vault

Shock Me; Make Me Feel Better! - 97%

Sweetie, April 12th, 2020

What a fool I am for sleeping on Traveler last year. Their debut album is pretty magnificent, but it would have made the newest effort even more fun, had I immersed myself into the rawer debut of this band. Termination Shock uses the same traditional metal formula, but builds on it with early USPM vibes and loads of melody and harmony alike. Even traces around the likes of Steeler can be found, with a bit more push of the speed metal here and there.

Conveniently, the aggressive songs are scattered throughout to keep a steady flow and avoid redundancy. “STK” lets this on with more abrasive vocals and a solo with two sides to it. Half of it simplifies things, acting like a breath of air before diving deeper into the pool of shredding. The melody always works its way back. If that wasn’t enough, “Deepspace” is all but a thrash metal banger, boasting the most raging force with riff after riff ‘til the end.

But what’s nice about Termination Shock is its multiple dimensions, and the warmer tunes similarly comfort the soul in a different manner. “Diary Of A Maiden” is a calm breath of life that still holds onto the power with strong bass licks while dialing back the lead guitar and vocal push. The clean melodies develop into stellar gallops, and the construction of this longer tune is pretty advanced. “After The Future” does the same thing, if not even better. I’d consider this a full-on ballad for the first half, with emotional sweeps that last the whole ride. The solos and bass explode into an epic ending, likely making this the best song.

Truth be told, another thing that makes this so special is how much the bass adds, which you can probably gather by now. The more straightforward and balanced numbers manage to sport this by crafting bouncier rhythms. See “Foreverman” as an example, and this one also captures the overall album energy flawlessly. And the best part? Traveler managed to do this in a digestible amount of time, drowning out any chances of overstaying its welcome.

This is basically my idea of a perfect record. Traditional formulas, subtle changes, hooky leads, and massive levels of harmony added to clean vocals. Anyone who likes bands that push boundaries without straying too far from their comfort zone should eat this up. Don’t make the same mistake as me by overlooking something just because it appears to be too typical on paper.

Originally written for Antichrist Magazine