Written by: Volt Thrower
Canada has been on a tear with its metal releases so far this year. Alberta specifically has been a hotbed for heavy lately. Whether you want genre bending devastation of the stunning Wake Devouring Ruin release, or some mind numbingly heavy stoner doom in Highbernation's Comatokes, chances are you can find something to scratch that itch in-province.
Now you might be saying, “I'm actually in the mood for some trad-heavy, maybe some NWOBHM speed stuff.” If so, gather ‘round weary reader, for the local village Journeyman has the release for you. Termination Shock, recently released through Gates of Hell Records, is the second full-length from Calgary speed rockers Traveler.
Another stunning cover artwork, another ding to Volt Thrower's wallet. The cover itself, done by artist Dylan Barstad, is a continuation in theme from their debut S/T LP, and an appropriate visual representation of the musical evolution of the band between records. I quite enjoyed their debut album, but the difference is absolutely night and day between the two records. A more modern sounding production is a huge boost for the low-end, the biggest beneficiary being Chad Vallier on drums being pushed into the spotlight right from the get go on opener "Shaded Mirror." The bass has a richer, warmer tone, but if i'm being honest I actually miss the slappy tone from the debut, and feel like it matches the style of play a bit better. Dave Arnold nevertheless delivers a rumbling, grounding performance, allowing the rest of the band to really explore the cosmic boundaries without losing the overall focus. Intertwining guitars provided by Matt Ries and Toryin Schadlich know when to leap into full gallop, peel off into a ripping solo, or pull back and provide a shimmering backdrop for the star of the show Jean-Pierre Abboud.
JP has elevated his vocals from the debut as more of a narrator following in the footsteps of a Halford or Dickinson, to the man on the mystic mountain before us today. The added dynamism, range and storytelling ability is the biggest hook and reason I keep coming back for more. There's a raspy edge to his voice at times that summons up prime-era Dan McCaffferty, which fuckin' slaps. But he manages to establish his own footprint and charisma. See banger "Foreverman," a track that has me yearning for these guys to tear up the Burton Cummings Theatre in the future. The band is absolutely on fire after the epic space tale of the title track, and their smash hit and not-so-subtle homage "Diary of a Maiden" comes roaring in with an outstanding riff. They pull back for a stunning set-up and deliver their most expansive song written to date to close out side A. I wasn't initially a fan of the love song "STK," due to the track it follows and lyrical content, but after repeated listens I feel like the band actually may have created their own modern version of "Miss Misery."
It's not all glitz and glory however, as even though it's only a 40 minute run time I start to feel some listener fatigue around slow builder "After the Future." There's nothing inherently wrong with the song--there's really nice basswork and some soloing--but it feels like a bit of a go-grab-you a beer song. Which you'l inevitably end up spilling on yourself as you sprint back for the rager that is "Deepspace." And, again, nothing wrong with album closer "Terra Exodus," which would sound great somewhere in the middle of a set, but after the scorched-earth it has to follow it's tough for it to live up to the hype.
Overall Termination Shock is a really fun and captivating album, in a genre filled with not so fun or captivating albums. It’s not without faults, but is absolutely built for the live Village festival stage, with charging riffs and rhythm, soaring vocals and choruses made to be shouted off the top of a mountain. I'm curious to see if they continue with the same theme into a trilogy of sorts, but no matter what comes next for Traveler, this light-bearing peasant will be peddling whatever it is they have to sell.
Traveler - Termination Shock was released April 10th, 2020 from Gates of Hell Records
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!