Terrorizer isn’t a band as much as it’s a brand. And that brand means something very different in 2012 than it meant in 1989.

In 1989, Terrorizer was an already-defunct group led by vocalist Oscar Garcia and featuring guitarist Jesse Pintado (who’d join Napalm Death), bassist David Vincent and drummer Pete Sandoval (who’d both go on to form Morbid Angel). They reunited at the urging of Napalm bassist Shane Embury, a huge fan, and recorded the album World Downfall for Earache Records. It was pure late ’80s grindcore—blasting punk-meets-death metal drumming from Sandoval, downtuned but blindingly fast guitar riffs from Pintado, barely discernible bass from Vincent, and Garcia howling over it all in a guttural fashion very much indebted to other grindcore vocalists like Napalm’s Lee Dorrian and Extreme Noise Terror‘s Phil Vane. The album created a sensation within the tiny, insular extreme metal scene; Terrorizer were seen as a glorious lost opportunity recaptured, however briefly, on vinyl. To this day, World Downfall is revered as one of the greatest releases of the early death/grind era.

Seventeen years later, Terrorizer reunited. Sort of. Of the original quartet, only Pintado and Sandoval returned. Tony Norman of latter-day Morbid Angel (David Vincent having quit that group in order to join his wife full-time in her band, the bondage-themed industrial-metal outfit Genitorturers) filled in on bass, and the new vocalist was Anthony Rezhawk of the brilliant L.A.-based Native American crust-grind punk-metal act Resistant Culture. This patched-together lineup recorded a second album, Darker Days Ahead, for the Century Media label. It was a solid record, even better than that at times, but it was very different from World Downfall. Rezhawk used his time on the mic to articulate the ecological concerns that were (and remain) his stock in trade with Resistant Culture, and Pintado (who’d also been playing with RC) wrote riffs closer in style and spirit to death metal and crust punk than to the grindcore of the debut.

A lot of metalheads, being metalheads, reacted negatively to these changes. From my perspective, it was all good. I love Resistant Culture; I think they’re one of the best, most interesting bands in America. So for Terrorizer to become a de facto RC side project was OK by me. Tragically, Pintado died of liver failure related to diabetes and alcohol only five days after Darker Days Ahead came out, which cast a huge pall over the project. Worse, the group couldn’t go on the road and support the new material, winning over fans of the earlier record in the process. As far as the world was concerned, the Terrorizer story was over. Most people had thought it ended in 1989; the reunion album came as a surprise out of left field; and with Pintado’s death, who could have foreseen the project continuing?

Well, continue it has. And the divide between the old days and the new era has grown even more stark. Anthony Rezhawk is still on vocals, and he’s brought in his Resistant Culture partner, guitarist Katina Culture, to replace Pintado. Pete Sandoval is still on drums, and original bassist David Vincent has returned. (This in itself is interesting, since Sandoval was supposed to play on the most recent Morbid Angel album, Illud Divinum Insanus, but begged off after having back surgery. Given the mixed-to-scathing reviews that album’s received, I wonder if a) Sandoval sees himself as having dodged a bullet, and b) Vincent is pissed at him for not going down with the ship.)

hordes

Musically, though, Hordes of Zombies (buy it on Amazon) bridges the gap between the first and second Terrorizer albums. The songs are crusty punk-metal with a slight thrash feel, but they’re shorter than the ones from six years ago; where World Downfall packed 16 tracks into 36 minutes and Darker Days Ahead had only 12 in 40, including an intro and an outro, HoZ offers 14 songs and an intro in 40 minutes; most tracks are in the two-minute range. They all sound pretty much the same, too—a single buzzsaw riff over a head-down blast beat of the type Sandoval probably can (and maybe does) play in his sleep. On Darker Days Ahead, Tony Norman took the occasional one- or two-second bass break to remind you he was there; David Vincent doesn’t bother. He’s just a fullness in the mix, ceding the spotlight entirely to Katina Culture, who’s a killer, underrated guitarist. “Forward to Annihilation” opens with a totally crushing death metal riff, before moving into the same thrash-grind territory as most of the other tracks, and she rips off some savage pinch harmonics and a fluid solo on “Ignorance and Apathy.” By the way, don’t think the album title points to Terrorizer suddenly moving into Cannibal Corpse territory, lyrically speaking; the zombies Rezhawk is referring to are people lulled into a trance by consumerism and general involvement with modern society. There’s even a sample at the beginning of one song from a newscast about Black Friday shopping.

After hearing Hordes of Zombies, I’m actually glad to consider Terrorizer an ongoing musical concern. I hope they don’t take another six years to make their fourth album.

Phil Freeman

Watch the video for “Hordes of Zombies”:

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