Review: Vektor – Terminal Redux
The hype ship has entered Earth’s atmosphere and is headed for impact… but will it survive the crash?
A Long, Long Time Ago (2010)
I vividly remember the first time I heard Vektor, on a cold January night some six years ago. I was surfing youtube for music and stumbled upon a review of an album called Black Future. It sounded promising (and the cover was really cool), so I checked out a song called “Forests of Legend”. Ten minutes later I sat there dumbfounded, the hairs on my arms raised with no intention of returning to their original state. Since then, Vektor have been in my regular rotation: Black Future was a part of the soundtrack to a young Moshito’s SAT studying sessions; its follow-up Outer Isolation was there for me during a particularly brutal first semester of college; I had the privilege of seeing Vektor’s first ever show in Europe and even meeting vocalist/mad scientist David DiSanto afterwards… I’ll try for this review to be as objective as I can make it, but the point I’m trying to put across here is: Vektor are one of my favorite bands in the Universe, so please excuse if my giddy excitement comes through too much.
After five long years, Vektor are finally back with their third effort, Terminal Redux. The band has always been extremely unique, and it’s about time they’re getting more recognition from the metal world. But hype is like a sword with no hilt: with everyone praising this album into Oblivion (pun intended), I was a bit worried that I might be underwhelmed. With that in mind, I waited a few days until I was absolutely sure I’d have an hour and a half or so to spare so I could give the album the attention it deserved without interruptions. What follows is an unedited and unfiltered account of what went though my mind during said first listen. Proceed at your own risk…
A few tracks in on my very first listen, Terminal Redux seems like it’s closer to resembling Black Future’s atmosphere than Outer Isolation was, which already has me pumped for more. The one thing that grabbed me about Vektor when I first heard them was their ability to make me stop whatever I was doing via spectrum-filling, grandiose blackened chord-driven passages… and then jump into straight up thrash riffs played at top speeds with jaw-dropping, startling precision; the transition from “Cygnus Terminal” to “LCD” is just that. Maybe it’s because I already heard it before, but opener “Charging the Void” starts out kind of slow and drags a bit towards the end… aaaand the riff over the double bass and blast beat parts five minutes into “LCD” break my neck without so much as asking for permission. Well done boys, amazing start.
“Mountains Above the Sun” is a bit… huh. But it leads into “Ultimate Artificer”, which I already know rules after months of jamming it in anticipation. At this point I remember why I love Blake Anderson’s drumming: tight and precise with juuuuuust a bit of groove and cool fills that stop the drums from sinking into the background and being buried under the relentless complexity and in-your-face nature of the guitars. “Pteropticon”’s abundance of tremolo-picking cements this notion: David DiSanto and Erik Nelson’s in-sync but slightly different way of playing certain riffs really makes for a cool, distinct sound that’s a welcome departure from the perfect, copy-pasted tracks that a lot of modern metal tends to employ. And… a breakdown?!!?!??? One that works? Wow, A+++. “Psychotropia” kicks in with more of a midpaced groove and an emphasis on, again, building on the melodies the guitars provide, with DiSanto’s trademark pterodactyl-like vocals soaring over it all. And off on an insane fast part again featuring A DIRTY BASS SOLO by one mister Frank Chin, trading off lead spots with the guitars, followed by more amazing riffs. Damn, this album is really relentless, I feel tired and I still have the last third to go.
Next up: “Pillars of Sand”. This one’s been out for a while, but I decided to hold out on listening to it to not spoil too much for myself. Blast beats over huge chords… Vektor nailing it, again. Switch into a ternary part with dual guitar harmonies and the bass complementing them with fills… hairs standing up again… yeah this is pretty great. I’m running out of words to describe greatness here, help. And just when I thought it wasn’t going to be surprised anymore… “Collapse” starts with clean vocals. As someone had already told me, it’s very reminiscent of Testament at their ballady-est. I don’t know if the vocals do it for me, honestly. The rest of the song seems fine; it’s a nice change of pace to something more subdued after so much intensity. Then there’s a dual guitar lead in the latter half of the song that does it even less for me than the vocals. It picks up during the last few minutes (of a total of nine). And there’s the guitar lead again… this track is a solid hmmm on first listen. And so we arrive at “Recharging the Void”, which is almost fourteen minutes long and smells of epicness in just the first few. Catchy riffs and leads to melt faces are followed by a quieter middle section complete with a (gospel?) choir and more clean vocals, that seem to work better here. And this all leads to yet another hair-raising open chord progression that shifts to the main F-power-chord motif that ties this track and “Charging the Void” together, and then straight into blast beats and blackened chord madness, then a thrash beat with a tremolo riff and the choir behind it… damn. I need a nap to process all this.
After resting my (cosmic) cortex, I’m ready to type out my verdict. Terminal Redux is EXTREMELY dense; it is also nothing short of incredible. This is hands down Vektor’s most ambitious release to date, bar none. It’s got tons of the atmosphere that made me fall in love with Black Future AND some of the awesome, catchy riffs that Outer Isolation showcased in a more straightforward fashion, but at the same time it’s an entirely separate entity. Sure, in my mind Vektor will never make another album like Black Future, but when we get music like the one contained in Terminal Redux, why on Earth would I want that? I’m glad that one of my favorite bands keeps pushing their musical boundaries and making records that are different from each other but still sound unmistakably unique… even if some of the elements don’t quite fall into place. At this point, Vektor’s future is far from black.
TL;DR: Vektor are good and you should listen to them if you haven’t already (WHY HAVEN’T YOU?!???!??). Get Terminal Redux here. Mosh, out.