New Zealand rock unit The Terminals have been operating under various iterations for 30 years and at the band’s core, Stephen Cogle and Peter Stapleton (with Mick El Borado) have kept the ship on course and sailing a straight line into dark and swirling post punk and psych-laden garage rock.
Antiseptic finds the band on top of their game once more. If anything their music inhabits even darker territory, the songs collapsing in on themselves as they chug and career along on the back of Stapleton’s often urgent drumming. Compared to the slightly more twee and pop-considered sound of Uncoffined, their album from 1990, Antiseptic operates more in the shadows, with that bruised melancholic vibe that is such a recurring streak through their contemporaries such as The Chills, The Clean and Able Tasmans.
El Borado’s organ amplifies the kinship with The Clean and The Chills, its primitive, off-kilter psychedelic circus sound adding layers of swirling melody and disconcerting chaos. Beneath that the guitars are webs of fuzz and screeching distortion, moody gothic strumming and distant discordant soloing – the perfect backdrop to Cogle’s ominous, stentorian voice that bleeds anguish and pleading across songs that only hint at the core of their subject matter.
The highlights of the album are aplenty, there isn’t a weak track among the eight. The title track possesses a nervous insistency courtesy of Nicole Moffat’s violin, the undulating rhythm of ‘Edge Of The Night’s’ verses segues into a glorious see-sawing chorus while the grinding metal and anxiety-inducing sound of ‘Runaway Train’ drives the tension skyward before the heavens open with the glorious, open-ended ‘The Rain Has Come and Gone’ and its warm and comforting Velvet Underground/Krautrock drone. From there the template is set as they conjure wonderfully skewed soundscapes and art rock diversions through to the closing pulse of ‘Light Years Away’.
The Terminals have never been creatively stronger than they are on Antiseptic. It’s their finest album and the sound of musicians digging deep and exploring a lifetime of musical influences and experiences without concession to anything outside of their own ideas and instruments.