Five albums into their career, Sacramento rockers Tera Melos are clearly playing for their own satisfaction. Mixing absolutely dirty guitars with a sense of composition that’s both experimental and jazz-like, they make something utterly unique and ambitious. This said their explosive-sounding record is very set against the grain in its composition, meaning they will really test listeners that don’t have a lot of patience and love for the sound.
On a bass riff so cutting it almost feels 8-bit, “System Preferences” starts the album on a hauntingly repetitive note. As the crunchy guitars and creepy synths slowly ooze in, the rock notes become more pronounced, giving a weird sense of grandeur to the abrasive drive of the track. Throttling the drums on “Your Friends” things get notably more heavy and metal-punk as the drill like shreds scream out. The sarcastic delivery contrasted by the really frantic instrumentation makes for a mix that leaves you feeling oddly entranced.
“Trash Generator” finds the band mashing riffs together as the drums hold it together in a chaotic run. While inherently grimy and sometimes hard to follow, the way the band holds it all together makes for a fascinating blend. While following similar notes, “Warpless Run” just feels less satisfying by comparison, feeling more like video game boss music than a full track. While they manage to communicate a lot in the actual moments of the song, there’s just so little in the way of continuation to make this track have lasting power.
With some sunnier surf sounds, “Dyer Ln” shuffles along a little more cohesively. How the drums manage to go so far without ever losing the beat is one marvel but the way they tweak back and forth between dark and bright is the real standout of the track. Switching to instrumental gears on “GR30A11” they craft an interesting and disintegrating interlude. The piano really holds down the fort on this track as the sound-warping is cool but ultimately doesn’t add much.
Leaning into some punk-pop on “Men’s Shirt,” there’s a menacing crawl to the guitars, elevated by the snarls of the bass line. The dynamic lift of the pre-choruses is true high points of the song, while the rant-like choruses release all the tension. Finding the sweet spot in their weird tones and aggressive playing, “Don’t Say I know” decides to let each part play out individually. Letting the choruses be an ugly but ultimately pop moment in the track, they manage to give a sense of sustainability to the more loose verses.
Playing into their more riff-driven rock, “A Universal Gonk” plays with the bit-crushing while the band has a call-and-response within themselves on the rhythms. While straightforward the explosive verses really have a dynamic energy as they grind out the anger. “Like A Dewclaw” goes for broke, thrashing aggressively and hitting its choruses a lot more naturally. The back and forth of smashing guitars and the more staccato breaks makes for a sharp sound, all the more snappy in its brief delivery.
“Drawing” finds the band switching between skate-rock runs and slithering riffs that tumble down with endless distortion. The hit-heavy second half almost feels like jazz as the band takes a much more repetitive but varied approach to one riff, before ending on what may be their most pop-infused chorus. After a slow-burning intro, “Super Fx” explodes into a hard-rock, riff-stomp, burning with a fire that they kept to a low simmer for the rest of the record. Letting the fuzz out with bombastic anger, this final track feels like their big rock moment, coming a little late for anyone who would’ve been pulled in by it.
Words by Owen Maxwell