Machine Beat Messiah EP
If there is anything I love in that influential Gothic Rock band - whose name I'm lazy to recall - it's their unique ability to transform the rock 'n' roll sounds from the 70s & 80s into signature, so-called dark and industrial groovy forms. It's therefore not surprising that, in spite of being considered as the epitome of that musical genre, they - or better said, he - consistently repudiate the Gothic part of the label. In this regard, the parallel between those 'pioneers by accident' and the Terminal Gods phenomenon is pretty self-evident. However this never might be more a blemish upon the Londoners, particularly in the light of their new 6-track EP "Machine Beat Messiah". Certainly, this is their most challenging, varied and meticulous work to date. Cowlin, Maisey, Cooper and Campbell seem to have gone a step forward during the process of creation, each one imprinting the richness of his own influences on this record with no complexes. So don't be astonished when the phantoms of Hard Rock, Punk, Blues or Psychobilly - though they wear black - start looming large in your mind while listening to "Machine Beat Messiah".
As its title suggests, the mini-album has a great deal of rocker's self-parody. This might be perceived as either humorous by those who 'get the joke' - among whom I include myself - or unpleasantly cocky by those who are unable to understand the irony. If the latter applies to you, it might be the time to get your ass back into the coffin because what awaits you here is, before all else, raw and ballistic rock 'n' roll. Mind you, the line-up lacks a flesh-and-blood drummer but it's precisely this what makes their retro-rooted rock sound even more appealing and cutting-edge. In line with the aforementioned mocking stance, the fleeting intro "Machine Beat Blues" starts creeping its way into the listener's mind through percussive bass throbs and distorted guitar growls. Barely 90 histrionic seconds are enough to uncork the bottle properly. The hints of Psychobilly go to head and all kind of compromising situations at sleazy bars are recalled. Then, just when things are getting better, the track unplugs prematurely and after a brief lapse of drones all remain in an ominous silence. Hardly we have had time to sober up when "Persona" bursts with energy into the scene. Meandering riffs shine out in all their motorized glory and the rhythmical column needs for speed too. In this regard, touchstones such as The Cult and Mötorhead are evident - note the singer's nod to Kilmister in the last "I Need You" - , even though this effective air-to-dancefloor missile clearly bears the Terminal Gods' stamp.
The following pair of tracks reveals otherwise an exciting - hitherto unknown - new side of the Londoners. However I'm sure this sonic facet has been always there, lurking and struggling to break out. The "The Resurrection Man" - "Snakebite Smile" binomial is the crowning moment of this release and, moreover, both songs reflect the band's desire of exploration like any other here. Mood fluctuates during the starting seconds of "The Resurrection Man", but gradually the song increases in drama through the heartrending vocals and a misty-eyed stare over nostalgic terrains occurs - which is an unprecedented sensation in their work. The structure is cunningly balanced, with semi-acoustic sparkles, bass-neck pinches and soft drum beats driving the pace. Meantime, the guitar solos make a gloom-inducing counterpoint to them, managing the emotional pulse together with the singing. Cowlin's unfeigned performing really drives home the power of the lyrics and thus this future classic gets a perfect finish. "Snake Bite Smile" never fails to send shivers down the spine. It begins with a strong cinematic style, setting up a decadent urban scenary through the harmonica locomotive-esque howls, the tambourine rattles, twanging slow-drawls and bluesy guitar figures. Over the second third, voltage increases on strings and wriggling beats lead the catchy, raised-fisting choruses. Once again, the baritones are remarkable and imbue the song with their magnetic rockstar-like presence.
"The Wheels of Love" teeters on a bed of Punk Rock to form his own unwieldy vision. It runs jolly and upbeat, driven by high-pitched, groovy bass lines. The pop-influenced guitar melodies blend with the speedy rhythm's backbeat and the scything riffs. Chord changes are a constant and this, along with the vocals - unfolded into addictive choruses - adds a radio friendly sheen to the tune. Although sounding definitely 21st Century, this piece seems to be much along the sound of those UK bands who moved among the mentioned subgenres in the late 70s, such as Buzzcocks, 999 or The Undertones. In counterpoint to the relatively frivolous theme of its predecessor, "King Hell" closes the EP providing a feeling of unease and sorrow. Its lyrics plunge us into the squalor of the modern society by telling the story of a metaphoric character who embodies the frustation of the disenfranchised (".../ Looking for the sun with a bullet in his chest /..."). Already at the beginning of the track, grim chords from bass and guitar pave the way for the dismayed singing tones. As in a sort of 'requiem for a dream', all the sections merge in heartrending, enraged choral laments ("/... and it rained no more /..."). Without flourishes, this tune offers an impressive insight into the harsh reality that many people has to face every day. The mini-album ends as ominously as it began: dissolved among guitar drones and brittle distortions which, whether intentional or incidental, act as a closing parenthesis that gives us food for thought in contrast with the initial one.
"Machine Beat Messiah" EP is the ignition of a band firing on all their vintage cylinders, burning fresh fuel and being very aware of where the motorway leads. With this release, Terminal Gods have definitely broken the mold, thinking far outside the 'black box', in the challenge of yelling their own tribal rallying cry while rejuvenating the ideals that made the UK Rock Rebellion outburst so loud in the past.
Review by Billyphobia