It seems incongruous, doesn’t it, for my first review of 2016 to be for an album released in the middle part of 2015? There is a method to the madness, though. In thinking about the top albums released last year, my mind kept drifting back to ‘The Reaper’s Spiral’ from Terminus. This killer slab of classic metal done right ranks high among my favorite albums of 2015, yet it is conspicuously absent from many end-of-year lists compiled by the experts and tastemakers. I get it, no one can listen to everything, but ‘The Reaper’s Spiral’ is simply too good, too compelling to slip through the cracks. So I thought it wise to circle back around and spotlight the record now for those who might have missed it amongst Stormspell Record’s slew of discs unleashed in the summer of 2015.
I’ll make this easy: Do you fancy bands like Visigoth, Ironsword, Darkest Era, Argus, Twisted Tower Dire, Grand Magus and Manilla Road? If so, then this quintet from Belfast should be mandatory listening. Terminus burst on the scene in 2013 with a four-song demo that appeared in Stormspell’s nice-priced ‘Jewels of Gwahlur’ series designed to showcase up’n’coming bands in the arcane styles of olde. There were several ace entries in the JoG series, but Terminus wore the crown with its blend of 1980s U.S. power metal and doom, featuring mighty riffs, galloping rhythms, and intriguing science-fiction based lyrics. Those four songs reappear in slightly modified, harder-hitting versions with noticeably stronger vocal performances (along with another five equally worthy cuts) on ‘The Reaper’s Spiral.’ I’ll be honest: For me, this album scratches much the same sonic itch that Visigoth’s ‘The Revenant King’ does, in terms of riffs, melodies and overall presentation. The energy, the urgency, the fist-in-the-air exuberance of it all are common traits of both Belfast’s finest and the Salt City livin’ mammoth riders. In fact, I like to think of these two albums as companion pieces, both mining similar influences to craft epic metal that is vibrant, brilliant and life-affirming. Some will prefer ‘The Revenant King,’ others will gravitate toward ‘The Reaper’s Spiral,’ but all should be able to agree that Visigoth and Terminus represent two of the brightest lights in the crowded underground old-school metal field today.
To refine the comparison further, to my ears, Terminus sounds like a combination of Visigoth and fellow Irishmen Darkest Era (especially as to vocals and those little Celtic doomy touches), with terrific songs. Just try to lift your jaw off the floor during “The Traders” or “Poseidon’s Children,” two of the greatest metal songs of 2015. Yet these are just two of the many highlights on ‘The Reaper’s Spiral.’ The Manilla Road comparison rings true too, so much so that I couldn’t help but chuckle when vocalist James Beattie sings the line “From Crystal Logic to societal decay” in “The Psychohistorians.” That’s not to say, of course, that Terminus are a clone. They absolutely are not, but they don’t try to hide where they come from, either. It’s what they’ve done with these influences – and in particular their magical songwriting and absolute mastery of the style – that makes them special.
There’s no need to belabor the point. Stormspell have struck gold with Terminus, and it seems only a matter of time before the world takes note. I can only imagine how amazing it would be to hear ‘The Reaper’s Spiral’ material performed live. For now, though, I sit back in my living room, blasting this album with a smile on my face, secure in the knowledge that Terminus are flying the flag, high and proud, for the epic traditional metal sound that lies so close to my heart. If for any reason ‘The Reaper’s Spiral’ flew under your radar amidst the hustle and bustle of 2015, start the new year off right by giving it a listen, won’t you? You shan’t regret it.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~