Reviews

Terminal Nation, Holocene Extinction (20 Buck Spin, 2020)

Ok, pop quiz: How many decent hardcore bands can you name off the top of your head from Arkansas?

Bonus points if you can actually find the state on a map (If you are having trouble realize that when Missouri farts Arkansas are the first to know [if you can't find Missouri, its neighbors with Illinois {if you can't find Illinois, then I regret to inform you, but you're going to have to repeat the 3rd grade- sorry kid, I don't make the rules}]).

Judging by your silence, I'm guessing you've got nothing. Well, that's about to change. Your new favorite band from Arkansas call themselves Terminal Nation, and their debut LP, Holocene Extinction, is the death metal half-cast hardcore soundtrack to amp your adrenal gland and give you the motivation you need to break all the furniture in your apartment tonight.

You have to deal with COVID cabin fever and the unfurling societal collapse occurring this country some how. I'm not going to judge.  

The Holocene, of course, is the present geological epoch. It started about 11,650 years ago (approximately, scientists don't measure time like the rest of us, they measure radiocarbon and then use it to perform complicated math that produces the empirical equivalent of a shrugging guy emoji).

The era is mostly defined by humanity's rapid development of the Earth's surface, a practice which Terminal Nation clearly believes is about to come to a screeching halt in the geological equivalent of a finger snap.

Suppose the title doesn't sell you on the fact that Terminal Nation doesn't see humanity's dominion over the planet as long-lasting. In that case, track titles like "Arsenic Earth" and "Thirst to Burn" are the hammer-to-face, fine-point punctuation of said thesis.

Although it's not exactly clear that Terminal Nation has an environmental message on the album, as much as the band wants to make clear that humans can't help but eventually destroy themselves through capitalist excess and wasteful production. The writing is on the wall, thick and black as tar. As inevitable as the falling rate of profit. 

The first thing you're likely to notice about Terminal Nation is that they have an absolutely overwhelming sound. They are very much in the vein of Gatecreeper and Xibalba in that respect. Although less, swe-death influenced. I'm not hearing a lot of Earth Crisis either.

Instead, Terminal Nation has developed their brick-house sound from the bottom up over a series of EPs, singles, demos, and splits (including an excellent 2019 collab with Neckbeard Deathcamp titled One Party System), evolving from a grinding power violence posse of East Coast-indebted punishers, into the all-consuming eldritch horror we have the perverse honor of bearing witness to on Holocene Extinction

Photo: Kurt Lunsford

Encase you were hoping to escape your fate and start a new life on Mars, or I don't know, Uranus, with Elon Musk as your copilot and a couple of pounds of hashish and a few liters of adrenochrome in tow, Terminal Nation will obligingly bring you back to Earth by puncturing your fuselage with one of the sure-shot, fireball grooves off of album highlight "Orange Bottle Prison," a track that also features some of the best churning, mosh parts and breakdowns of the entire album.

I'm imagining that opener "Cognitive Dissonance" is the sound of your Space X shuttle reentering the atmosphere in a cloud of billowing flames, to the tune of riffs that sweep and drag with a resigned gravity, driving you inexorably to your doom.

It stands to reason then, that the crusty, stop-start rebuke of "Arsenic Earth" is the soundtrack to your final moments, pleading for aid while trapped under the burning wreckage of your erstwhile space ark, while the grim procession of the title track will provide ambiance to the shoveling of your ashes into a gopher hole, never to be uncovered or remembered by anyone.

Terminal Nation has the names and addresses of this dying planet's tyrants, and they want the Musks, the Sacklers, and Bezoses of the world to know that if we go down, we're taking them with us. 

Dismember is an obvious and admitted influence on Terminal Nation, and you can definitely hear the impact of that group's chain-whip grooves falling mightily hard on tracks like "Caskets of the Poor" with its nail-driving punch, and the brief but potent "Thirst to Burn." But likely the most far-reaching influence on the band is Napalm Death.

There are spaces on Holocene Extinction where vocalist Tommy Robinson sounds like Barney Greenway's biological son, if not his genetic replica, especially when he begins shouting about how yours and my suffering under the current system is not a result of any defect, it's the "Master Plan," and everything is going according to the script.

Such an adept impression can almost lead you to forget how diverse the band's actual sound can be, especially when they slide effortlessly from a resin-lined growl to a death-doom stalking abdication of life a la Hooded Menace on "Expired Utopia," as well as on the maddening descent of the intro of "Death for Profit," which shatters the pane of black mirror placed before you like your own consciences leaping at you through your bathroom's vanity to exact a Napalm Death-esque manhandling.

No matter where you turn, the reaper will be standing, hour-glass in hand, waiting for the last grain of sand to drop out on to the pile of minutes you've spent attempting to delay the inevitable. 

Photo: Kurt Lunsford

For many hardcore bands, their best work is behind them by the time they drop their first LP. On Holocene Extinction, Terminal Nation has produced the best and most furious realization of their sound to date.

It is clear that they will only continue to refine the potency of this formula for however long as we can keep the Earth from becoming one big lobster boil due to climate change, or when the band, and presumably most of their fans, are rounded up by the security contractors of the coming capitalist feudal regime for not being able to pay back their student loans on Amazon fulfillment center salaries or because their social credit score dropped too low.

We may not be able to predict or choose how it will all end for us, either with a whimper, a bang, or a wet sloppy fart, but we can at least enjoy some savage hardcore in the moment, and that will certainly help get us get through one day, and into the next. 

And now you can tell your friends you know at least one band from Arkansas. 

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