I’m not really a split kind of guy, but when a great band drops music no matter the form, you take fucking notice. It goes without saying, if you’ve paid attention to me in any capacity and the type of music I like, that I’m a huge fan of Terminal Nation. A few of us are. The Arkansas hardcore/death metal quintet became an instant favorite of mine with Holocene Extinction, one of the most unfuckwithable albums in that vein I had ever heard up to that point or since, thanks in part to their unabashed anti-fascist and anti-capitalist stances that were as bright as the sun. Politics in metal? *Pikachu gasp*
Kruelty though? Never heard of them before this split. A sludgy, doomy death metal band from Japan, you’ll soon see that they fit the bill perfectly. The cool thing with splits is that you may be brought in by one band that you already love and discover another that you like because of those connecting threads. Hell, I first heard of Terminal Nation because of their split with Neckbeard Deathcamp called One Party System. This is most definitely one of those moments for me.
It’s called The Ruination of Imperialism which is… well, basically sexting to me. On the cover is an ambiguous monarch, spilled goblet in one hand and scepter in the other, body riddled with arrows, including one in the eye. He is, presumably, dead; a sundered relic of imperialist, colonialist, militaristic attitude that greatly prevails around the globe today. Subtle they are not, but I love them for it. It’s this full-assed (as opposed to half-assed) energy that persists heavily and fervently through the music too.
First, Terminal Nation, who have three joints on this split. “Curators of Brutality” is first and, wow, the band’s production and sound has improved since Holocene Extinction. Clearer, crisper, pissed-er. It’s a rousing anthem about fighting power, one that leaves no fucking room for misinterpretation.
‘Leveraging the numbers
Against the power structures
Seize the power
Tip the fucking scale
Take back what’s fucking ours’
One endearing thing about Terminal Nation is their gang vocals and every song here has a treat for you in that regard. ‘We have the numbers!‘ and ‘you push, we push back/harder‘ are chanted on this track as it lurches by with some truly weighty instrumentation. Drums are massive, guitars elephantine, and the vocals are outrageously powerful. Seriously, Stan Liszewski is without a doubt one of the best vocalists in the game right now. So guttural, but his (barely) cleaner yelling voice is even more captivating – I can only imagine how intense live shows with them must be.
“Sacrificial Capital” is a fun track about overthrowing (like, literally) horrendously rich CEO pricks so they can’t profit off the destruction and death of their workers any longer. Terminal Nation skipped forming a labor union and went straight to disunion of capitalist pigs with retributive, vengeful assassination:
‘120 miles an hour
Of terminal velocity
From penthouse balcony
To the side walk of Wall Street’
All to the tune of catchy, grinding guitars and thrashed-out drums. It’s a startlingly relevant message especially as we continue to contend with workplaces and corporations that insist the pandemic is over – and has been for over a year – and remote work isn’t good enough, just to keep the profits rolling in, stay in control, and ensure the economic death machine chugs along using workers as the fuel (eat dog shit, Elon). Though fantasy, this song ensures the image of billionaires having their organs liquidated along with their assets stays with you for days to come.
Finally, “Embalmed Crucifix” is slow and low, an infernal damning of religious zealotry and controlling narratives to get the moral high ground. I feel like it loosely references Israel’s occupation of Palestine and their perpetual scapegoating and genociding of Palestinians, but really it could apply to any similar abomination in history or even our own religiously informed laws on abortion or trans rights that will, assuredly, lead to thousands of deaths if we don’t challenge them. It’s on this song that one of the hardest fucking lines I’ve heard in any song recently can be heard screamed by Stan: ‘The only way you get to see heaven is if we stack the bodies that fucking high’. My jaw dropped when I first heard that.
Kruelty are no slouch, but they are sludge. They approach their amalgamation of death metal and hardcore with melody and atmospheric weight just like Terminal Nation, but there’s a distinction here that’s hard to pinpoint. Overall, they are a quicker band, slamming their well-written sonic reprimands into longer track lengths (both six-ish minutes), but cover as much ground, if not a bit more, than their comrades did.
Between “Suppression” and “Under Your Pressure”, I get the sense that Kruelty are just as fed up with the state of the world as the rest of us are, but I did not have the luxury of obtaining lyrics to confirm. Either way, both are deluges of rough and rowdy metallic hardcore that really verges on that death/doom aesthetic that I love so much. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I do – they really do stand toe-to-toe with Terminal Nation in terms of brutality and execution. The punishingly plodding ending to “Under Your Pressure” is absolutely vile as well. A great introduction to a great band, and I’ll be digging into their back catalog with glee soon enough.
The Ruination of Imperialism is about the closest thing you can get to erotic fiction without anyone actually cumming for me and many other people that skew left – way left – when it comes to sociopolitical dealings. You may interpret that as trendy nowadays, but it’s more of a generational reaction to the realization that we are well and truly fucked in our current landscape. No politician will save us, no cop will protect us, no corporation cares about us, everyone has an agenda, so yours might as well be self-preservation and the protection of those you love. These two bands take that energy and distill it into one of the best splits I’ve ever heard, as worthy of your time and money as any other LP or EP. If you’re hesitant of splits like I tend to be, stuff that hesitance in a bottle of alcohol, light it on fire, and throw it at your local PD before elbow dropping that buy button on Bandcamp.