Published Aug 07, 2020On the provocatively titled Holocene Extinction, Arkansas bruisers Terminal Nation make two things abundantly clear: they're not here to mince words, and things are pretty much fucked. Every day individuals are forced to face down the ills of political corruption, the devastating effects of anthropogenic climate change, corporate greed, civil unrest, the ongoing threat of a deadly global pandemic, and ongoing cultural stagnation. And in taking a good, hard look at the miserable state of the world around us, at our never-ending cycles of increasingly depressing current events — one might ask: where's the lie?
With this politically and ideologically charged question in mind, the debut full-length from the Little Rock quintet serves as both a warning to humanity and an outright declaration of war. Opener "Cognitive Dissonance" immediately sets the tone with an urgent battle cry of pounding drums, thick, crunching guitar leads, and howling vocals patched in from the bowels of hell. After a thunderous, mid-section assault of double-kick and a sledgehammer beatdown as finisher, Terminal Nation shift gears into overdrive by propelling the listener straight into the thresher of "Arsenic Earth," a two-minute tumult of morbid death-metal and destructive power-violence.
It's this sinister sonic approach — brutally heavy moments of pain, suffering, and lasting violence, infused with an all-consuming sense of doom and gloom — that forms much of Holocene Extinction's 13 tracks and lean 35-minute runtime. "Thirst to Burn" and "Leather Envy" are explosive, ephemeral ragers, blown apart by drummer Chase Davis' frantic blast beats and frontman Stan Liszewski's volatile lyrical screeds ("Death to all fucking bootlickers!"; "Those who bow to their own oppressor are the weakest link in the chain of being"). Likewise, brief cuts "Caskets of the Poor" and single "Master Plan" allow axe-men Tommy Robinson and Dalton Rail to build on a template of stomping metallic hardcore, flirting with serpentine death metal leads and thrash-y chainsaw riffage.
While the doom-laden instrumental "Expired Utopia" is a welcome reprieve from the album's non-stop assault, it does feel meandering and under-written as the start to side B of the record. Closer "Age of Turmoil" has the album's best display of savage vocal interplay, as Liszewski, Robinson, Rail, and bassist Chase Turner aggressively trade barks before the track transitions into an underwhelming, fade-out finish. Elsewhere, Liszewski's delivery and cadence can feel a little awkward and clumsy, stretching or jamming weird lyrical phrases into otherwise excellent track segments (see the "arf arf!" moment in "Orange Bottle Prison" or the mid-section of the title track).
However, when they hit that ideal three-minute zone, Terminal Nation strike their best material yet, comfortably standing toe-to-toe with the output of fellow contemporaries like Xibalba, Nails and Power Trip. Back-end numbers like "Death For Profit" and "Disciple Of Deceit" lurch and groan under the weight of penetrating riffs, venomous lyrics, piercing dive-bombs, and colossal pit-worthy breakdowns.
Much like the cackling reaper that adorns Holocene Extinction's surreal, eye-catching album artwork (courtesy of scene-staple illustrator Adam Burke), Terminal Nation only have one message for the power-hungry sycophants who dare to stand in their way: time's up. (20 Buck Spin)