Terror Cell – Caustic Light


*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #10 of the SBR Album of the Week.

There are two types of anger. The kind you feel when somebody pushes to the front at the supermarket checkout and the type that consumes you when you realise that the civilisation you live in and the power structures that prop it up will always work against your interests. In the latter case, you know that concepts about finding the one true love and fulfilment in your work as a productive member of society are meaningless constructs that benefit rentiers and aristocrats and those that value a stable property-owning democracy. Richmond, Virginia quartet, Terror Cell, express the second category of anger and make sure you know what it feels like to have a nervous breakdown in the process.

They call their music chaotic hardcore, but opener, ‘The End of All Things’, is a throbbing piece of sludge with morbid death metal roars and a crushing rotational spin that puts you in a state of vertigo. “With every breath I take, resentment fills my lungs/ I’m drowning in my fears/ Everyone will leave/ No one is ever really here,” screams vocalist and guitarist, Joey Woodard, in a searing rage. Even the reset to a calmer passage of discordant arpeggios at the half-way mark twitches in pain, like a small pinch of salt dissolving on a red-hot stove. Unlike other mathcore artists, Terror Cell take the jagged Deadguy riffs and slow them down to accentuate the ugly hiss of the dyad chords. ‘Face the Wall’ is a sludge version of Botch but with a clearer sense of nihilistic purpose to celebrate the realisation that there is no hope in life, and everything will end one day.

“Wall Street and trust funds/ You fucks are all the same/ Force feeding bullshit/ Just to build your name,” rages Woodard on ‘Propaganda Organ’. This is the music in your head when you lose confidence in the political system on polling day and sneer at the voting slip in disgust. On a musical level, you can hear Will Haven as much as Converge, but the outcome is the same – collapse of one’s ego. ‘Being of Light’ is the closest they come to hardcore, but they soon transition into a bone-crunching muscle paralysis and then leave you staring at your reflection in a puddle as the cars flash by and splash your trousers. Does the lyricist from Terror Cell need urgent medical therapy? That is a question on your lips throughout ‘Panopticon’. You can hear a phantom voice onscreen: “If you need help to access crisis resources, you can call… blah, blah, blah.” All to no avail. The concoction of post-hardcore and black metal takes you to a place beyond despair, where you can laugh at the tragedy of life.

How do the members of this band find the inspiration to explore so many different textures when their frame of mind is so broken? ‘Rumors of War’ starts like a Refused intro with no indication where it might go until they launch into a muscular sludge groove and let the vocals guide the aggression. Close your eyes and this could be an uglier version of Gojira with drier plug ins and less concern for rhythmic precision. The reckless bass slides in the last section remind you that the house of cards could fall at any moment. Could you trust yourself to stay calm on the London underground platform with this music on your headphones and hundreds of people jostling past you to get home? Maybe the soothing melodies and rare smiles of ‘Broken Vessels’ can stop you elbowing the prick with the backpack down the escalator. The power-dressed woman with the headphones might not be so lucky when the band accelerate towards a sudden burst of chunky guitar stabs and tell you what you already know: “There is no safety/ Nothing but memories/ There is no hope left/ All is meaningless.”

Caustic Light is the depiction of a person losing their ability to function in a society that will never recognise them. We’d be worried about the state of mind of the author if these lyrics were public posts on Facebook. This is art that captures the emptiness and despair of the unsettled mind. It’s also a magnificent piece of unhinged metallic hardcore.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 07/10/2022

Record Label: Fisher King Records

Standout tracks: Face the Wall, Panopticon, Rumors of War

Suggested Further Listening: Mothman – Cancer Withdrawal (2022), Orphan Doner – Unraveled (2021), Irist – Gloria EP (2022)