History is a funny sort of thing. After decades of settlement, narratives usually make easy easy passages of understanding. Death metal, as a genre, is simple to start with American innovators such as Possessed and Death which took off the chaotic torment of thrash acts like Slayer, Kreator, and Venom. Starting death metal at these bands is easy but gets tricky when other things are unearthed. I am not going to say that Terminal Death, an American death metal band operating at the same time as Possessed and Death, are unrecognized innovators of the style rather they are just an artifact which was been long forgotten. Shadow Kingdom is a record label which specializes in newer traditional and doom act but also has made a name form themselves resurrecting long neglected gems. If there was an award for most surprising band that never made it to the upper echelon of remembered metal bands, Terminal Death has my vote for the next few years.
One of the only connections Terminal Death has with the rest of the world is Shaun Glass. Glass would later go on to play bass during the late 90’s with Broken Hope. Aside from this minor connection however, the whole of Terminal Death lived and died within a matter of years. Terminal Death is survived by a 1985 demo and two recorded rehearsals which accompany the Shadow Kingdom compilation. While most extreme metal demos and rehearsals from the mid 80’s are rough and sometimes unlistenable, Terminal Death’s legacy lives in clear production. Hauntingly clear production. The vocals from John Piotrowski are filled with wet gravel but with a resonating dimension of sound. The vocals are backed with a disciplined rhythm section and competent guitar work from Nick Stevens which makes the whole of Terminal Death’s material enjoyable beyond comprehension. The band’s ability to write engaging songs filled with chaos such as “Hacksaw” and “Judge Death” only adds to the mystery of how this band was ever ignored.
The acts which make up the pillars of history arrived with a combination of talent and good fortune. Dwelling too long on why certain bands have been forgotten leads to a frustrating hobby. For every band like Possessed there are probably 10 bands like Terminal Death which represents a population of bands which were operating at the same time, and in the shadow of historic milestones. History is a funny sort of thing and entertaining given the many varieties of sound one can experience. Innovation comes in shades which gives way to a spectrum of interpretation. If one tries hard enough, they can close their eyes and imagine an alternate history which began in 1985 and crushed everything else.