Synthwave Sunday: Dan Terminus, The Wrath of Code
Synthwave has no real drums (let alone blast beats), no vocals of any kind and no raucous live shows — just cheesy keyboard sounds that seem to be the antithesis of metal. Maybe you’ll get a brief distorted guitar lead, if you’re lucky. So why are metalheads suddenly so drawn to this music with seemingly nothing metal to offer?
This series seeks to explore that question. Synthwave is dark. It’s scary. It’s moody as fuck. It’s incredibly well-orchestrated and, in a different way than metalheads are used to, highly technical. And it’s full of feeling. It’s nostalgic to a time and place that possibly never existed, but one that you feel you know all too well… and dammit, you’ve got to get back there at all costs. Synthwave takes you back. And finally, ost importantly: it’s HEAVY.
I’ve chosen to kick off this series with Dan Terminus because I feel he’s got one of the best senses of composition and orchestration of any of the artists in the burgeoning genre. It’s easy for one to imagine themselves sitting in front of a synthesizer pounding out decent grooves, especially for technically gifted metal players who thumb their nose at “fake” instruments, but writing a catchy hook is much, much harder than anyone thinks. The devil is in the details: those transitions and turnarounds are tricky to master, but Terminus has the artform nailed. His songs are tight, purposeful, and perfectly crafted at every twist and turn. Those songs are brought together by his incredibly lush orchestrations, layer upon layer of melodies and sound effects revealing themselves like the layers of an onion. To the extent that synthwave is a full-on “headphone genre,” yeah, that’s true, but Terminus goes the extra mile — The Wrath of Code is headphone album if ever there was one.
It’s not hard to imagine some of Terminus’ hard-charging beats and chainsaw analog synth bass stabs as double-bass 16th notes highlighted by merciless guitar chugs. It’s metal, just arranged for non-metal instruments. Wrath of Code — out now via Blood Music (buy: physical or digital) — is heavy as fuck, and you will enjoy it. Stream some older Terminus jams here.
Stream it below via Bandcamp or Spotify. “Cherenkov Blue Overdriver,” “The Chasm” and “Eternal Annihilator” are my favorite tracks of the lot.