No star is safe! Right at a year since their debut album, Traveler return with their second full-length, Termination Shock. Traveler made waves in 2018 and 2019 with their brand of no-frills heavy metal heavily rooted in the dual-lead assault characteristic of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Termination Shock certainly continues that trend. From the frantic drum fill leading into the infectiously catchy riff which kicks off the first track, you know what you’re in for.
The main difference in this album relative to their debut is the band getting a little more out-of-the-box with vocals melodies and flair. The title track makes great use of this, often layering falsetto screams atop commanding shouts. I LOVE this element of the track and its something I mainly associate with Tyrant’s Too Late to Pray. There’s plenty more to love beyond the vocals, too, of course. Main songwriter Matt Ries delivers once again on this album with catchy riffs and an abundance of compelling leads that put the band on everyone’s radar.
To me this band is at their strongest in either of two speeds: fast and faster. A mid-paced heavy metal trot taken up a notch or two creates a space where the riffs can really shine through and the leads really develop themselves into something compelling and memorable, while still making good use of the frantic energy delivered by JP Abboud’s iconic voice. This has been Traveler’s comfort zone on most of their material to date. A welcome addition on this album, however, is the band’s proficiency at pushing the tempo even higher while still developing the song to its full potential. I’m speaking specifically of “Deepspace”. It’s all the elements I like about this band crammed into a starship at light speed: blistering speed metal riffs supported by pummeling double bass and JP’s wails followed by a solo that any of the classics of the genre would be proud to claim. Another element I particularly like about this track that was missing from much of the album (or at least not mixed nearly as prominently), is the creative use of bass to compliment the main melody. The tasteful bass licks were one of my favorite aspects of the debut album and I’m stoked to see it make at least a short reappearance on Termination Shock.
Unfortunately, this album suffers from the same problem that every band encounters when they strike gold on their first demo. They’ve set the bar very high for themselves. Like I said, this band is at their strongest with the tempo set high. There’s several tracks on Termination Shock that start out with slower and more emotional sections and I gotta be honest, I find myself waiting for the song to kick in the whole time. When they do kick in, both tracks hang out at more of a mid-paced trot and I can’t help but wish for a more energetic payoff. Underneath the high bar set by Traveler’s faster numbers, tracks like that leave me a bit underwhelmed.
All this being said, within the confines of the “NWOTHM”, Traveler are the one of the best poster-children of the movement: undeniably influenced by classic heavy metal without falling into the pitfall of worship, while being unarguably modern. Termination Shock keeps that banner held high and stands strong as a slab of star-killing fist-pumping heavy metal.
Favorite Track: Deepspace
Album Rating: 70/100