In today’s modern metal scene, it may seem like songs with self-absorbed guitar noodling and epic, soaring vocals are going the way of the dodo. Guttural screams technically restrained solos seem to be replacing the operatic vocals and shredding that defined metal in the late 70’s and early 80’s, at least in the mainstream scene. While I will be the first to admit that I do like quite a bit of what modern metal has to offer, it’s good to know bands like Terror Garden are around to make sure that the past isn’t too far behind us. With hooky riffs, dynamic vocals, and airtight musicianship, Terror Garden’s latest release, “Karma and Chaos,” is quality classic heavy metal that deserves to be appreciated by anyone who throws up a pair of devil horns.
The album opens up with “Selfie Queen,” a glam styled ripper about the shallow lifestyle of a woman who seeks social media recognition. The simple but driving guitar, bass, and drum work sufficiently supports the vocal work, which reminds me of a blend of Halford, Coverdale, and Ripper-Owens. The rough yet tight production only adds to the song’s charm. It’s definitely a solid way to kick things off! Next up is “Reality Check,” which starts with a simple bass riff that gives way to bluesy guitar solo, and then a harmonica solo! As awesome as that is, again, the dynamics of the song put the spotlight squarely on the vocals – the octaves that this guy can cover is wild, and rivals Axl Rose himself. The guitarist also steps it up on this track, delivering a solo that fuses metal and blues masterfully. Track 3, “Deep,” continues to mess with expectations by opening with an acoustic guitar riff and vocals that sound more like Creedence Clearwater Revival than anything else. It is pretty wild just how many different sounds and moods these guys can capture in a single song, but I’m beginning to wonder if this much variety comes at the cost of consistency. Regardless, the musicianship of Terror Garden cannot be questioned.
Following this up is the much more straight forward “One More Line,” which grounds things firmly back in the straight ahead heavy metal sound that kicked the album off. Sounding like a Hardline b-side, the lyrics sing about the dangers of addictions, while the guitars wail in that classic 80’s way. It’s so great to hear this kind of music going strong at the end of the 2010s! Track 5, “Put Me On the Guestlist,” continues this trend nicely, providing a nice musical through-line after the three tracks that kicked the album off. The guitarist’s wankery is another highlight, really cementing the throwback vibe for me. Following this is the noticeably somber “Emotionless,” a moody ballad that revels in its dissonance before launching a throat punch of a song that sings about the detached reality of a narcissist. Throughout the record, the lyrics have been nothing short of poignant, but these lyrics might just hit the hardest. Track 9, “Out of My Head,” sees the return the acoustic guitar, and thanks to the chord progressions and use of a 12-string guitar, I’m reminded quite of a bit of Rush, which is never a bad thing! The song as a whole is more upbeat than its predecessor, serving as a charming love song with a driving pace. It trades the heaviness and melancholy for fun, and it’s really cool how Terror Garden can effortlessly bounce between the two. Wrapping things up is the aptly-named “Shut Up and Buy Me Drink,” which is as wild and fun as it sounds. Truly a fun and wild way to cap off the album!
We need more bands like Terror Garden – bands that proudly carry the traditions of the past into the present without attempting to “modernize” in the vain attempt to stay relevant. Classic metal is sometimes the best kind of metal, and whether you’re a lover of old school metal or were was raised on the music of the last two decades, “Karma and Chaos” merits your time and attention.