Paul Blom, guitarist/bass player/keyboard ninja and programmer, always had a clear vision for his band Terminatryx – he never doubted his efforts and it has paid off.
I’ve been keeping in contact with Blom for the past two years for an article on the roots of heavy metal in South Africa. Unfortunately, the article got lost in a pile on an Editor’s desk and only made publication in the latter of 2013. Since then, Blom and I have discussed his musical projects, specifically Terminatryx.
In 2002, Blom walked out on a growing pop culture and laid out the foundations on what is a developing alternative scene. His eclectic persona made way for a band that combines science fiction, horror, hard rock and electronic music. This infusion was grand, almost improbable and definitely too far out for a fresh post-millennial South African market. Yet, a minority of alternative fans found solace in Terminatryx’s existence. Despite the messy politics of the music industry, Terminatryx evolved and pushed through. Their fans grew, their performances made news and they are now established figures. Of course, nothing like this happens overnight – it took Terminatryx twelve years of dedicated hustle.
Hustle. This word conjures images of rappers and hip-hop moguls counting money in a dark dingy smoke-filled basement. The truth is most people hustle, and they do it in daylight in public spaces. In other words – they work tremendously hard. Terminatryx have put in the hours too. They have seen many South African bands walk-on and walk-off. They have made many mistakes as a band and learned what works and what should be thrown away. They also know that this is their way of expressing their art. As most individuals find out, being in a creative industry is not easy. I get the idea that most individuals think being in an artistic business is all about building new structures and walls. I disagree. For me, art is about breaking and dissecting everything in order to reassemble new perspectives.
For Blom and fellow band members, that is exactly what happened. Blom took a gamble in the early 90’s to live his heavy metal dream with South Africa’s most influential metal band, Voice Of Destruction (V.O.D). A German label plucked V.O.D from their hometown in South Africa and set-up tours around Europe with like-minded bands such as Katatonia and In The Woods. Soon after, Blom decided to take a detour and began creating art [Terminatryx] by taking everything that he had learned to be everything that he can be.
In any band, communication is pivotal. The relationship between Blom and Terminatryx vocalist, Sonja Ruppersberg, has always been smooth and co-operative. Both their personalities seem to compliment musically – perhaps it has something to do with their ten years and counting of matrimonial bliss.
Personal life aside, Ruppersberg is the face of Terminatryx. In the early years of South Africa’s music scene, women in metal were pushed and nudged out of the way but Ruppersberg stood up and stood out. Her clean vocals contrast her macabre characters. If there is one thing that you can take from this band is that they don’t emulate any specific style. The same goes for Ruppersberg’s vocals – best described as stagnated silk. The lyrics penned by Ruppersberg occupy dark spaces and exude dark emotions. She is a Goth at heart but Terminatryx do well to blend all those influences in and create something original.
Originality in the music business is debatable. If you listen to Terminatryx, you can play a game of ‘spot the influence’ but here is the thing, it’s a mixed bag of indulgent killer metal. Mind you, quality indulgent metal. All of this is evident on the latest offering from the band which is entitled “Shadow”. Throughout the preview of the album, I had to keep reminding myself that this is a South African band. The level of professionalism is outstanding, the production quality is excellent and I fail to see the blurry line between home-grown metal and international metal. It feels like Terminatryx have broken the glass ceiling and joined international standards. A glance at the album’s special guests and album mixing credits can tell you that South Africa’s alternative music veterans played a major role in getting Terminatryx to this level. It’s easy for me to label those credited as ‘alternative music veterans’ but in South Africa, these are the people who roll rocks up mountains so that up-and-coming bands have clear pathways to walk on.
The guitarist of Terminatryx, Patrick Davidson, can be added to the above list of ‘alternative music veterans’. Not only are his musical skills on par since joining Terminatryx in 2008 but so is his passion for all things heavy metal. Davidson is involved with much of what we know as the Cape Town metal scene.
Tangent aside, the crucial addition to Terminatryx is drummer Ronnie Belcher. Belcher has been involved with the band since its core inception and has a number of side-projects that utilise his visual and musical talents.
The last unofficial band member is not a musician. Nor does he work in the sound production department. I liken him to a young Ross Halfin. If you don’t know who that is, I suggest you leave the room. What Dr-Benway has done for Terminatryx is more or less the same of what Derek Riggs did for Iron Maiden. Of course, the difference here is everything is in a smaller budget and scale. Dr-Benway (Thomas Dorman) is a professional photographer that indulges in the macabre, avant-garde and degenerate art. He has contributed his lens to many of Terminatryx’s shoots, concepts and as of late their “Shadow” album artwork. You may have noticed I introduced him as the Riggs of the band. Without his input, I might have given Terminatryx nothing but a passing glance at the record store. I imagine that this may be true with most new listeners. There is something about the manner that Dr-Benway uses to portray Rupperbserg on this album. There is a hint of science fiction marries Greek mythology but there is this ‘otherness’ too. It stands out in a pile of South African albums and it most certainly has sexual characteristics. After all, no matter how hard you try to deny it, sex sells.
The biggest question is will Terminatryx’s “Shadow” sell a good number on the South African market?
In my mind, “Shadow” rates on the high-end of quality. Its opening industrial metal tracks are reminiscent of earlier Terminatryx albums but this time there are encapsulating guitar solos and less prolonged electronic efforts. I’m particularly fond of the title track and its haunting mimics. The whole album seems balanced and the lyrics are very deep creating that tense atmosphere. There are a few embellished riffs and sounds although none of the tracks stand empty.
Terminatryx’s pinnacle coincides with a number of exciting metal events in South Africa. The band will join heavy weights Belphegor, Septic Flesh, Alestorm, Fleshgod Apocalypse and V.O.D at Witchfest in April 2015. Prior to that, I know that Terminatryx has been confirmed for Metal4Africa Winterfest 2014.
Now that’s what I call hustle.