By Rick Shithouse
Dan Terminus' Wrath Of Code album has finally been released. After seemingly months of delays and even longer since I was honoured with a preview in 2014, the album is finally out and free to enrapture all into its own plane of existence. This being such a long awaited release has definitely paid off, however, as the quality of the experience has been worthy of getting the release 'right'.
When it comes to the unholy quantrinity of Slash Electro rockers there's the energetic tension of Perturbator, the uncaged creativity of Carpenter Brut, the aggressive onslaught of Gost and in Dan Terminus we're now given a new dimension to the extreme side of 80s inspired synth music. In The Wrath Of Code Terminus uses time and patience to build his stories. The epic soundtrack oriented concepts this record illustrates adds yet another dimension to the Slash Electro dynamic, one that lends much from more traditional synth soundtrack music and then counterbalancing the vast spaces with intense explosions of raw power.
The overall balance of the album is something I certainly wasn't expecting. Across the thirteen tracks there are four acts formed as chapters in the story. Individual tracks relate to others in the same chapters in a wonderfully engaging manner as sounds and passages reappear as characters throughout Th Wrath Of Code's story. The boldest move, on Terminus' part, was to open proceedings with one of the most intense Slash Electro anthems in recent times, the highly regarded brutality known as 'Cherenkov Blue Overdriver'.
Opening the album with this piece is akin to having the most graphic and bloodiest murder of the slasher movie happening while the opening credits are still rolling. We're thrown in, head first, into the absolute chaos of Terminus in his most malicious form. Beyond the short introductory passage this track then obliterates all in its path. A procession of electric death that brings pure aural annihilation. This level of intensity is usually what is built to in many albums but by foregoing this tradition Terminus brazenly opens up and unloads his most high powered ammunition from the outset, which then leaves on wondering where the hell can you go next?
The following piece continues in the same vein under the monstrously appropriate title of 'Heavy Artillery' but it's at this point, amid the machine gun percussion and devastating basslines that Terminus begins his melodic adventure. The vintage soul is born anew in rousingly bright melodies which refuse to get caught in the cut and thrust of the Slash Electro mayhem. Things become even more involving as the pace is slowed down into into dirge and far more sensitive elements blink and sparkle amid the clouds of soot and blood. The layers of sound all remain intense but it is the beauty of the lead melody that takes this opening chapter into new lands.
This introductory suite of tracks is then joined by 'Avalanche' and subtly the synthscape begins to change. Tearing electronic yawns of synth chainsaws act like barking wolves, but underneath those sparkling details of 'Heavy Artillery' now gain more presence. They gain strength and power and begin to take the music in the direction they want. Away from from carnage and brutality; venturing to new horizons. Their voices become all powerful in the final stages before our next journey starts.
Pursuit begins with 'Death By Distortion' as machine beasts roll out in search of their prey, the harsh, raw edge is rusted and blunt but wielded with much force. The clouds rise across desert's horizon as unrelenting technology hunts with feverish ferocity but the light finds a way to hide, it takes a route deep and unknown. A path into 'The Chasm'.
In 'The Chasm' Terminus takes a much more laboured approach to the synthscape, using industrial tinged melodies to illuminate a dangerous passage. This track though is devoid of the previous chapters chaos and instead takes cues from more controlled atmospheres and soundtrack based arrangements. Allowing this listener this dark voyage into fear brings on a different brand of intensity. One that takes shape amid distant shadows. One that hides much more than allows you to see. One that is completely descriptive of the perilous adventure.
The time aspect is one of the real joys of this album as each track is generally around the four and half to six minute mark, meaning the ideas and details are fully explored before moving on. After 'The Chasm' the adventure continues into a tonal palette almost devoid of the previous chapters brutality. 'Eternal Annihilator' uses dark, swelling clouds of villainous synth in less chaotic ways. A measured approach is used instead, which is highly refreshing and distills melodic ideas into highly polished gems. The aspects of positivity and hope again rise and glow, as the clouds that once reached for the sky now yield.
Ironically on 'It's Too Bad She Won't Live' the lights begin shining even brighter with synths being the most brightly coloured on the album to this point. The raucous violence of the past seems like it happened eons ago. A new dawn is here, a world that shines rather than cowers and offers untold possibilities. The midpoint change in this track is not to be underestimated. All of a sudden a sinister malevolence begins to override the atmosphere and the massive punch combination of percussion feels like voltage directly connected to your nervous system. The last piece brings in some kind of solace; but at what cost...
'Grim' starts down a path that becomes familiar, albeit now with steelier determination. Threatening to go ballistic in a vicious display of raw power 'Grim' keeps itself under control via some beautifully arranged melodic details that sooth the pumping viscera. This combination of ruthlessness and reflection is given even more weight from the previous tracks on the album. The music feels like it's crying out with dialogue and poetry, using the melodies as a vocalisation.
The force of power flows faster in 'Restless Destroyer' as those voices now scream for justice. Thudding percussion and explosive flourishes highlight the anthemic nature of the piece with quickening melodies alluding even more crazed recollections and hallucinations. From the mercilessly pounding rhythms rises that familiar, singular hope once again. A glimpse is all that can be afforded, however.
Returning the chants of battle and confrontation. 'Pegasus Pro Ultra Fusion' plays out like the Heaven version of the Hell that is 'Cherenkov Blue Overdriver'. The structures feel similar and play out in a familiar way, but this time the dominance of light over the darkness is realised. A gleam of silver and gold is woven in to the synth melodies as the black fragments of the past are swept aside. The once merciless pounding now feels triumphant and inspiring. Colours begin to fade back into the picture and for the first time, The Wrath Of Code moves from being a mechanised being into something much more organic.
The most adventurous side of Dan Terminus surfaces next in 'Tuned In To A Dead Channel'. The use of vocals in a very obtuse way adds a huge amount of presence and humanity to the atmosphere. Synths are sombre, but not without sparkling details and glowing resonance. The traditional song make up of verse/chorus and even a wonderfully executed solo make this an experience that adds a huge amount of possibilities to the Terminus palette and really shows an artistic side to the producer I hope he explores further.
A final piece of atmospheric annihilation arrives in the second last track 'Detonation' as the pace is slowed and the synths layer megatons of power through swirling radioactive clouds of desolation. The intensity is still there, but it comes with a cost and a sense of great loss permeates the scene. This then leads into the final track where Terminus teams up with Perturbator to switch every dial to levels beyond safety as sounds are sharpened and unleashed in barrages of blasting synth violence. But, once again, as a final reminder, the beauty of the melodic passages shine ever brighter against the holocaustal contrast presented. It's the perfect note to finish on, a highlight reel of The Wrath Of Code, condensed into four minutes and forty seconds of outright Slash Electro mayhem.
The magic in The Wrath Of Code is really in it's storytelling ability through each of the tracks. The acts of the narrative play out so thoughtfully and when explored in such an intensely forged sound it shows that Terminus knows exactly when to reign in the horses and when the whip the living shit out of them. This is definitely the most accomplished full length Slash Electro record I've heard thus far and it expands the concepts of the genre in some radical new ways whilst being able to keep the concept and theme genuinely captivating to the listener.
Blood Music presents Dan Terminus' The Wrath Of Code album on their Bandcamp page here at a name-your-price point in digital formats only at this stage (here's hoping to a physical release soon!). This is without a doubt a Synthetix Reference Experience and breathes new life and possibilities into the extreme side of synth music that while forged in Hell definitely gets a deliciously wicked coat of 80s synth gloss.