Salome - Terminal
Profound Lore Records
7 songs (01:06:55)
Release year: 2010
Salome, Profound Lore Records
Reviewed by Charles
Sludge can be quite a monochromatic sound, but Thou’s Summit used a subtle but adventurous approach to instrumentation, as well as a downtrodden sense of melody, to add a degree of colour which made it my favourite album of its sort of last year. Salome, however, made a greater stir, at least within more mainstream realms, with an album that takes almost the opposite approach. As the cover suggests, Terminal is a stripped-down release, and has very little in the way of what might be called melody, indeed very little harmonic colour at all. Instead, it is a demonstration of what guitar, drums and voice can achieve with little more than an impressive group synergy and a will to experiment with these basic elements.

Indeed, the best thing about the album is the sense that the band is stretching to find the limits with the sorts of ideas they can get out of their instruments. Opener The Message is an exercise in creative, freewheeling songwriting, with an emphasis on rhythmic and percussive exploration. It jerks erratically through these irregular unison ‘Boing! Boing!’ stabs, as if the band is bouncing slowly on the world’s grimmest trampoline. Later, it repeatedly allows the strings to drop out for moments at a time, providing a series of disorientating flashes in which Kat’s harrowing gurgle is juxtaposed with an incongruously laid back drum-beat. Then, this is all interrupted at the 4:20 mark by a sudden release of squealing noise which disrupts the preceding cleverness like Lucifer's boiling kettle. It’s also notable how Aaron Deal’s drumming seems, on occasion, to want to become a proper riffing instrument, entangling itself inextricably into the machinations of the rhythm guitar on Epidemic. This is a fluid, inventive approach to instrumentation which is quite rare among metal bands.

Thus, Terminal is as complex and dynamic as doom metal gets. It plunges deeper into the more hostile waters that had already seeped up through the floorboards on the debut, and the listener-friendly rubber rings that were the stomping stoner attitude of tracks like The Vivification of Ker are almost wholly discarded. There are riffs here, of course; sometimes lethally infectious ones, like the serpentine punk monstrosity that opens the title track. But this almost immediately slows down to a crawling pace in which the band assumes mannerisms closer to funeral doom without the sense of melodrama. This pacing is unpredictable and actually kind of frustrating, but in a good way; the band off-roading down a muddy slope until they reach then next proper riff (that’d be about twenty minutes later). Other times, it has to be said, this definance of the conventions of compositional structure means that the interest wanes slightly. The seventeen-minute An Accident of History is essentially a long stretch of abstract feedback. Whilst within the context of the overall record this seems like a good idea- in keeping with the band's ethos that rock music is most effective when it is allowed to stride freely in and out of ugly caverns of hostile noise- it leaves you twiddling your thumbs a bit. Or, in my case, playing freeware Road Rash.

Still, this is quite an important album on today’s metal scene, insofar as it manages the rare feat of actually having a genuine point to it. A lot of the ideas they throw at the listener are surprising, unpredictable, and there is a sort of improvisational feel to it at times which is distinctive and appealing. I suspect that those who appreciate this will already be well aware of it, and in little need of my recommendation (this is, after all, an act that has graced the pages of the New York Times, no less). Still, for what it’s worth, Terminal is an album overflowing with intrigue, originality, and occasional irritation.

Killing Songs :
The Message, Terminal, Epidemic
Charles quoted 85 / 100
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