Traveler – Termination Shock Review

We here in Calgary have the reputation of being a bunch of gas-guzzling, oil-loving, separatist-bent, racist rednecks (95% incorrect 92% of the time), but we also have some excellent bands. Woodhawk, Wake, Chron Goblin, and Gone Cosmic, to name a few. Local upstarts Traveler look to join this exalted pantheon of local heavy music gods, and their debut, last year’s Traveler, was a fine first step. My beefs with the record were minor: song length, production, and performance nitpicks, all burrs that can be easily smoothed over. Considering it’s only fourteen months between releases, is that enough time for the boys to hone their skills and up their game? In a word, yes.

Termination Shock follows the same template as its predecessor, galloping out of the gates with “Shaded Mirror,” all 80s riffing and harmonies with JP Abboud’s classic vocals urging us on atop the mix. If Abboud was over-enthused on the debut, he is only slightly more restrained here, and that results in one of the best traditional metal vocal performances of the year. “Foreverman” is another galloping anthem with a singalong chorus that will go down wonderfully live. And if you wonder just which bands influence Traveler, the homage-entitled track “Diary of a Maiden” should tell you. It’s the longest song here at six minutes, which would bother me if it wasn’t so well-written. An anthemic opening salvo leads into a “Remember Tomorrow” verse, and then into that Iron Maiden gallop we all (should) love.

Abboud’s amazing vocal pipes and the guitarwork of Matt Ries and Torying Schadlich might take center stage on these songs, but the rhythm section cannot be ignored. Chad Vallier is relentless behind the drum kit, infusing the songs with unmistakable energy, while Dave Arnold throws in plenty of embellishments while still maintaining a solid bass groove. All of these songs are constructed such that they would be massive stadium headbangers. Album closer “Terra Exodus” has one of the greatest openings this year, all big chords and Abboud wails, before heading down that familiar up-tempo path, guitar solos blazing past our ears. The one changeup on the album, “After the Future,” follows the classic 80s template, clean guitars and weepy vocals building to ripping solos and harmonies with increasing urgency.

Even though the template is familiar, Traveler have changed things up here. For one thing, Ries has help in the songwriting department this time around. JP wrote most of the lyrics here, Arnold brings a song to the table from his days in Striker, and the band gets “STK” from Jean-Pierre Fortin of Canadian legends Deaf Dealer. The material here is more varied, at times faster (the title track and “Deepspace” are bona fide speed metal songs) and overall more dynamic. Some folks in Blogland insist that there isn’t a “hit” track like “Starbreaker” from their first album, but I put forth that overall the songs are stronger, as are the production and performances, and that makes up for it. Termination Shock is an album that kicks butt front to back.

Look, Termination Shock isn’t perfect, and this style of music shouldn’t be. It’s more about the exuberance we all had in the 80s scene, writing and playing music for the sheer joy – and Traveler have a ton of that. If the songs here don’t get you raising your fist and banging your head, you might need to check your pulse. This is an album that slides into any year in the 80s perfectly, doesn’t miss a beat, and holds its own. Despite that, Termination Shock is fresh enough to appeal to modern metal connoisseurs as well – not just old farts like me.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Gates of Hell Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 24th, 20201

Show 1 footnote

  1. Unbeknownst to the band, the album was released digitally two weeks earlier.
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