Night Terrors have up until now been a fairly free-form outfit, careening at will through EBM, electro-industrial, glitch, and synthpunk styles on their outings as part of Washington state’s Vertex clique. Previous LP Now, Here nicely reflected the trio’s constant shapeshifting as well as the nigh-psychedelic experience their chopped-up post-industrial bricolage induces. New record Zenith is notably more grounded in a specific sound and aesthetic, though that certainly doesn’t make it any less aggressive or any less of a head-trip.
Opening track “Fatal Impact XR [ZENITH Systems]” sets the template: a classic EBM basslines is set down and then fully encased in metallic washes of distorted synths and vocals, with a near-constant stream of samples and general chaos, compressing it and essentially each subsequent track into pure cyberpunk noise of nigh-infinite density. It’s a great sound for the band, and for once they’re content to ply it for a full record. That’s not to say that Zenith is lacking in thought or technique simply because its aesthetic is so blunt and direct – take a listen to how funky the classic electro-industrial halftime breakdown is on “Nu-Body Astralizer [Variable Apex]”, or the abrupt jumps into wistful and spacey dark electro synth refrains which are sprinkled into the record to offer the odd bit of breathing room. Still, while Night Terrors play fast and loose with traditional song structure, dragging some tracks nearly to the ten minute mark and shifting through different movements and rhythms, the record’s core sound is never far from hand. To wit, Zenith sounds exactly like you’d want a record with track titles like “XXX-Gen.Fiber [Duty Optimized]”, Gurren Lagann samples, and translucent CD liners featuring mechs to sound like.
Speaking of the track titles and album art, “An industrial record obsessed with mechs?” I hear you say. “Ah, so it must be similar to FLA’s Airmech soundtrack, then.” You couldn’t be more wrong, hypothetical reader. That record was an ode to the technological sublime and highlighted the grandeur promised by mechs; Zenith, in contrast, revels in the granularity of metal, the solid-state tactility of our fantasies of war made cybernetic flesh. It’s gritty, slimy, and messy in a way which feels very true to Night Terrors’ evolution, as well as their long-standing and well-known anime fixation.
While Zenith wears its influences proudly, it never falls into tribute territory. Rather than checking off a list of cyberpunk tropes because, well, that’s what you’re supposed to do, Night Terrors sound positively gleeful here, jumping from sound to sound and idea to idea as they delight in their own ability to bring each of them to bear. There’s lots to like here, especially if you have strong opinions about the Mentallo And The Fixer discography and/or the new Neon Genesis Evangelion dub.