REVIEW: Terminal Function – The Symbiont

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Swedish metal squad TERMINAL FUNCTION are about to crush us with a new studio album boasting their unique blend of progressive and technical death metal on June 7th, 2024. Entitled “The Symbiont,” this multifaceted endeavor explores the familiar themes of the genre – that is, existential contemplations in the face of technological advancements to the point of delving into mysteries of the cosmic kind. The album title itself is nothing short of intriguing – symbiont typically refers to a parasite that is essential for the host’s survival. So, it looks an awful lot like this album may need quite a few repeated spins to properly get to the bottom of it. Well, noblesse du métal progressif oblige, as the tenets of the fraternity go… After releasing several EPs and singles since their acclaimed sophomore full-length “Clockwork Sky” (2015), these proggy Swedes are returning to the album format; this new effort is to be released via Stupid Dream Records and it is the third installment in the band’s pristine catalog. With their metal aesthetic of choice recalling MESHUGGAH and ANIMALS AS LEADERS from time to time, I just wonder what the hell I was doing when they started making waves with their debut in 2008!? How could I have missed something as awesome as this? According to the press kit, Patrik Jensen of THE HALO EFFECT has dubbed this “the best new music I’ve heard in a long time!” After a few spins with this beast, it becomes outstandingly clear that this is no idle marketing bullshit.

Glancing at the tracklist, one feature stands out immediately. Contrary to the genre’s long-cherished conventions, all songs are relatively short, with most of them clocking in somewhere between 3 and 4 minutes. Typically, prog-tech songs do not stop the timer too long before the 10-minute mark. Perhaps it is exactly this feature of “radio-friendly” song lengths that makes a hefty contribution to the album’s overall punchy feel. However, I reckon that these bangers are way too knotty and brutal to get much air time on mainstream radio waves. Straight off the bat, from the first bars of the steamrolling, yet melodic opener, “Celestial Machinery,” it becomes crystal clear that the band is not pulling punches.

Next up, “Fort Meade” refers to the US Army installation located in Maryland. The place is some sort of platform for intelligence and cyber stuff. Befittingly, the second single off the album oozes dystopian cyber-metal vibes from the get-go. The lyrics are pretty intriguing as well, with the theme being something akin to altered psychic states induced by audio input – something shady straight from the CIA textbooks, I’m sure. TERMINAL FUNCTION provides us with an audio input of the sort that alters our psychic state just marvelously. You see, technical death metal with proggy twists and turns is the next best thing right after straight-up prog metal.

The longest track, “The Invisible Collective,” is perhaps the most mind-bending as well. If you try to figure out the time signatures, I mean. The band published a nifty cheat sheet for the song’s time signatures on Facebook – for fans who adamantly want to clap along to the song. I’m pretty good at differential math but I wouldn’t dare try such a thing. The song takes off on wild tangents pretty quickly, covering meters from the compound quintuple (15/8) to all sorts of esoteric fractions. What makes this maneuvering even more amazing is that the riffs groove like hell! It’s one thing to write multi-dimensional riff puzzles but entirely another ball game to make them groove as well. These proggy death-technicians are insanely good at this!

There’s one more thing worth noting; on this new album, TERMINAL FUNCTION seem to have toned down the most obvious MESHUGGAH influences, which trait did characterize their previous album quite a bit. Rather surprisingly, “Infinity Cycle,” the instrumental 2-part suite closing the album, is reminiscent of RUSH of all bands, what with the odd-meter riffs played in unison by the guitars and keyboards! I seem to have developed a reputation for scolding bands for not choosing the right track to close an album. Here, I have no reason whatsoever to do so. This closer is just as epic as it should be! It looks an awful lot like this magnificent band has cultivated its own, unique voice and it is one worth lending your ear to.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. The Celestial Machinery
  2. Fort Meade
  3. The Symbiont
  4. Venomfall
  5. The Invisible Collective
  6. MK-Ultra
  7. Tunguska 1908
  8. Majestic Twelve
  9. Infinity Cycle Part 1
  10. Infinity Cycle Part 2

Lineup

Mikael Almgren – guitars

Victor Larsson – vocals

Stefan Aronsson – guitars (he handled the bass on the previous album, so I 

guess he played it on these songs as well…)

David Lindkvist – drums

Label

Stupid Dream Records

Links

https://terminalfunction.com

https://www.facebook.com/terminalfunction

https://www.instagram.com/terminalfunction