California juggernaut TERROR has been one of the leading bands of hardcore punk since the turn of the millennium. The challenge for all aging aggressive bands, perhaps especially for those who have made a significant impact, is remaining both potent and interesting. Unfortunately, the hardcore bruiser succumbed to said challenge in the second decade of its existence. TERROR's last truly powerful record was 2010's "Keepers of the Faith". Its subsequent long players—2013's "Live by the Code" and 2015's "The 25th Hour"—weren't bad releases per se, but they were far from exceptional, or even memorable, for that matter.
The Los Angeles-based band's 2017 EP, "The Walls Will Fall", was a noticeable return to form and suggestive of what has now arrived. With "Total Retaliation", the group's seventh full-length album, while it hasn't struck gold in terms of achieving absolute hardcore perfection or nirvana, it has churned out a 13-song effort that simply demands to be replayed—for those whose cup of tea is contemporary metallic hardcore punk, that is. "Total Retaliation" almost instantly brings a sensation that you're being pulled into one of the band's ruthless mosh pits, rife with aggression, faux kung fu kicks and the paradoxically unifying spirit exemplified by the way that knuckle-draggers pick their mosh victims up from the floor followed by a supportive and loving pat on the back.
In fairly dramatic fashion, the proceedings begin with an absolutely crushing mid-paced riff on "This World Never Wanted Me" that's sure to whet the auditory appetites of listeners and stir anticipation much in the same way that, while stylistically considerably different, "Reckoning Day" has the ability to induce chest thumping at the onset of MEGADETH's "Youthanasia". But in the case of TERROR circa 2018, the intro is absolutely maddening. Subsequently, monstrous frontman Scott Vogel's screams come clamoring in tandem with bursting cymbal grabs. Vogel remains an obvious focal point with a vocal outpouring that's appealing because of the clear enunciation, unbridled passion and because he is akin to a barking, rabies afflicted dog frothing at the mouth. "Mental Demolition" follows up with a more straight-ahead hardcore percussive pummeling that shifts gears for pit-friendly breakdowns in a song that's replete with gang vocals and the band's penchant for thrash metal.
Elsewhere, "In Spite of These Times" and the title track boast stirring but simple heavy metal inspired solos. "Post Armageddon Interlude" arrives at approximately the album's midpoint to adequately provide a breather with its noticeable change in approach. It's a hip-hop song, and a tasteful and well-executed one at that. "Behind the Bars", later on the album, is perhaps one of the most epic and impassioned songs of TERROR's career.
"Total Retaliation" is the album that TERROR needed to prove that it still has it and that it's here to stay. It proves the quintet's longevity, and while it is tried and true TERROR in the most fundamental of ways, it's also diverse enough to merit listening to more than once. In other words, it isn't simply a rehash of the band's former glories. "Total Retaliation" finds TERROR once again at the top of its game and at the top of the pack.