Deathstars – “Termination Bliss” (retro review)

Deathstars

“Termination Bliss” (2006)

Nuclear Blast

Rating: 8.5/10

File this one under “guilty pleasures”. On their second full-length album, Sweden’s Deathstars have further fine-tuned their style of semi-industrial, gothic metal with periodic injections of pop hooks and sensibilities, and the end result is one of the most enjoyable albums I have heard over the last few years.

The story of this band might confuse some, and lead them to wrong conclusions before they even heard a note of music, so let me put it straight. It is true that two of the members have at one point been in Dissection (one of whom happens to be Jon Nodtveidt’s brother), and at least three of the members, including the vocalist, have once been a part of Swordmaster, a death metal act. Deathstars have nothing in common with Dissection or Swordmaster, or any death or black metal altogether, other than an occasional death/black metal backing vocal here and there. So, fans of the aforementioned bands should not be looking here for a second coming of Dissection, or even anything remotely similar in terms of style. Instead, this is clearly geared for the fans of Rammstein, The Kovenant, or even more commercial offspring of the genre such as Marilyn Manson.

All the necessary elements of the style are here – industrial-sounding beats, heavy rhythmic guitars, deep male goth vocals accentuated with occasional angelic female singing, and enough electronics, samples, keyboards, and the like to remove any semblance of death metal from the mix. Is it particularly deep and engaging in terms of music? Not really, but that was not the point. “Termination Bliss” is a very fun record to listen to, as it hits the mark pretty much spot on, and maintains consistent level of quality throughout.

Sure, maybe The Kovenant did it better at one point, and Rammstein is more renowned worldwide (although, last I have heard, Deathstars have amassed quite a following in Europe), but there is not many things wrong with “Termination Bliss”, and more often than not, it gets the style right, reminding me of how good it can be when done the way it was supposed to.

Another thing that helped Deathstars on their second record is lessening their reliance on aggression found in spades on the debut “Synthetic Generation”, and letting more poppy, melodic elements creep in. In a perfect world, “Blitzkrieg” would have replaced Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People” on the mainstream radio with its driving rhythms and pop hooks, while “Virtue To Vice” is an industrial-gothic version of a “soft”, ballad-like song. “The Greatest Fight On Earth” reminds one of prime The Kovenant with the semi-spoken vocals accentuated by a semi-operatic female choir backing vocals, while “Death In Vogue” is a true hidden gem of the album, a glam-rock song masquerading as industrial or gothic metal track with one of the catchier choruses present.

All in all, “Termination Bliss” delivers on all accounts. Yes, it may not be Music with the capital M, but it is great entertainment, and for that alone it deserves a higher rating than many musically pretentious offerings that do not provide that.

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