Terravoid is the new project of Oliver Palmquist of Swedish death metal thrashers, Ophidian, but his debut EP has little in common with the Stockholm sound of his home city. Progressive metal is the term he uses to describe his music, but that does not sit right with this reviewer. Ectogenesis is too frantic and the vocals too relentless to sit under the prog umbrella. But there’s no doubt it deserves a place on the thrash metal spectrum next to the debut Mr Bungle record, which should give you an indication of the strange world you’re about to enter.
The eerie piano notes of ‘Through Dead Eyes’ start like a flashback scene in a murder mystery tale and float along with the aid of a distant synth arpeggiator before the death-doom guitars add their menace at 01:23 seconds. Your first thought will be “what the hell is this?”, and you’re right to smirk. Palmquist does a good impression of a mad scientist in his hysterical narrative, mixing the demented vocals of Devin Townsend from his Strapping Young Lad days with the eye-bulging intensity of a James Bond villain. You only realise the sophistication of this song after the third listen, when it dawns on you that the same four piano notes sustain the composition for the entire five minutes and thirty-seven seconds right up until the ferocious industrial metal ending.
As a title track, ‘Ectogenesis’ sticks to a more conventional format of thrash metal, but the unhinged vocals and sci-fi narrative give it a Fantomas edge. Again, Palmquist’s voice is reverb-heavy and neurotic and seldom distorted, yet it carries the music like a wizard unleashing a spell against the nefarious corrupters of the world. The rapid thrash beats and vicious guitar stabs leave you in no doubt that Terravoid is an experimental outfit with roots in late-80s extreme metal.
As entertaining and as unique as it is, this EP is not without a few irksome moments. ‘Reaching the Unexplained’ is more like a spooky bedtime story. Or might we call it a metal version of the Tales from the Crypt television series? The instrumentation plays second fiddle to the sheer number of lyrics, to the point where it tires you out. Palmquist’s vocals are too distressed, like the captain of the Titanic in the last hour before his ship went down. Nevertheless, closing track, ‘Error Endeavours’ is a spectacular piece of thrash metal coated in a whirlwind of ascending and descending scales and ghoulish piano notes. This is the archetypal Terravoid sound – demented, unpredictable, replete with a cacophony of thrash riffs and sixteenth notes. It might be too weird for progressive metal. Perhaps we can call it avant-garde thrash.
Whatever label you want to give it, Ectogenesis never loses you interest, nor does it lack in originality. Though an acquired taste, you can do worse than add this to your playlist for a fun twenty-three minutes of macabre metal.
Release Date: 21/03/2021
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Ectogenesis, Error Endeavours
Suggested Further Listening: Strapping Young Lad – Alien (2005), Mr Bungle – The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo (2020), Fantomas – The Director’s Cut (2001)