It’s been almost three years to the day since I reviewed Dysrhythmia’s last album, The Veil of Control. Of course that one appealed to me: it was loaded with virile, complex songs that at times borrowed heavily from King Crimson—specifically, that band’s The ConstruKction of Light era. Dark, heavy, and discordant, it all added up to an enjoyable romp through instrumental prog-metal fields. By not overstaying its welcome (6 songs in 36 minutes), the album managed to hold my attention longer than many other instrumental prog albums. So three years on, the trio has dropped a new album in my lap, Terminal Threshold, complete with some mind-bending cover art. Color me excite.
It’s clear from the outset that things are different for Dysrhythmia this time around. A quick glance at the tracklist is one hint: 8 songs on this one, but only 32 minutes of runtime. No song is more than four and a half minutes long. From the opening fade-in of “Nuclear Twilight,”1 it’s clear Terminal Threshold is not going to be the same as The Veil of Control. “Nuclear Twilight” is loaded with thunderous toms and jagged, thrash-like riffs. It’s an insanely complex and busy track; thank goodness it doesn’t last much more than four minutes, because I get dizzy listening to it.
Terminal Threshold proves to be a very heavy record, with layers of intense guitar pyrotechnics obliterating everything in sight. Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts, Sabbath Assembly) pulls every chop out of the butcher’s freezer and leaves us stunned with some of his lines. Despite that, Jeff Eber nearly keeps up on the drums. If his tom rack was ever feeling left out of the proceedings in the past, Eber more than makes up for it here. The only downside to the music is the relative absence of Colin Marston’s (Krallice, Gorguts) bass. It’s there, but you can feel it more than you can hear it in most of the songs. ”Plague Delay,” the third song, is the first track where I could really pick out what Marston was up to. It’s also the first song to display the previous album’s King Crimson roots.
“Progressive Entrapment” maintains a semblance of Crim influence, but after that it’s more or less back to manic insanity. “Twin Stalkers” features a great stop-start riff atop rolling toms, while “Never Was Then Again” delivers chaos amid tempo changes that leave us confused and disoriented. In fact, in almost every song, just as we’re led to believe the band (Hufnagel specifically) is about to give us some nuanced respite, in comes some tremolo picking or chunky riffing. The feeling one gets is that Dysrhythmia might want to toy with some finesse, but think the better of it every time. This dynamic permeates the album, and it is what makes me think of thrash metal moreso than prog as the album careens along.
It can be tough to create instrumental prog metal (or instrumental anything, for that matter) that maintains our interest through an entire album, but Dysrhythmia always manage to do so in fine fashion. Terminal Threshold pulls out a ton of stops through its eight raging tracks. It’s heavier, faster, and a tad more complex than its predecessor, almost to the point of being exhausting despite its brief runtime. Drummers and guitarists alike will revel in the churning maelstrom, while bass players will wonder why the producer mixed himself so unobtrusively. As for the cover art; well, it perfectly exemplifies my mind as I listen to this album.