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Synthwave EP Review: Terrordyne, "Rebirth"

Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.

I’ll admit that I’ve had pretty limited exposure to the darker side of synthwave, so it was an interesting opportunity to review Terrordyne’s latest EP Rebirth. I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but it was a pleasant surprise to listen to Rebirth. While it definitely has an unsettling, even menacing quality to it, it’s combined with a certain beauty and lightness. My overall impression of Rebirth was of music that combines tension with melody and surprisingly delicate sounds with the kind of cinematic intensity one would expect from darkwave-type music.

In fact, I really did feel a strongly cinematic vibe from this entire EP. It was able to generate strong imagery for me. The imagery wasn’t concrete so much as it was emotional in nature. It was very much a case of having a wide range of feelings evoked by Terrordyne’s music. The ways in which synths, percussion and bass intertwined and interacted altered my emotional perception from track to track.

The choice of synths and their sonic signatures intrigued me. I went in expecting really heavy, crunchy and intensely dark sounds, but the tone was quite a bit lighter and more airy than that. In fact, as I said, there are truly delicate and even ethereal sounds here. The contrast between those fluting, chiming synth melodies and the heavier darkness underneath them does actually heighten the tension delivered by the bass and percussion.

Synthwave and related genres seem to put a high emphasis on production quality and Terrordyne doesn’t disappoint in that regard either. Everything is nicely mixed, properly balanced and super crisp and clear.

The vocal samples were an interesting choice here. I am not sure how much I liked them but they certainly don’t detract from the album and perhaps they do add to the dark vibe that’s being created. It’s really just a minor quibble on my part.

The ways in which Terrordyne uses his sonic canvas to evoke different sensations and images appeal to me deeply. The first track of the album, The Reckoning, is a good example of this.

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The expansive synth sounds that open the track create a spacious, open feeling for me. Once the solid bassline is joined by a driving rhythm, we get a series of delicately fluttering arpeggios and then this beautiful bell-like synth that flickers through the underlying bed of sound. There’s a sinister quality in the lurking bass, while the melody has a melancholy, minor sound to it. The overall impression for me is one of something menacing lurking behind a yearning sadness.

Crystalline and chiming synths make interesting contrasts to the darkness on Rebirth. The tension between the diaphanous and the demonic constantly replays throughout the tracks on the album. Percussion drives and throbs, the bass pulsates and rumbles and yet the melodies are airy and delicate, full of space and light.

Rapture is an excellent example of the contrasts that Terrordyne explores on the EP. The track gives the impression of sounds existing in a vastly expansive space. There’s an otherworldly, ethereal quality to the music. The chiming, bell-like synth dances into the track while bass and drums begin to throb slowly, but insistently behind them. The melody in this track has a fluttering, gentle nature to it that contrasts with the heaviness under it quite nicely. There is indeed a rapturous quality to the music, even as the pace picks up and the track rushes toward a conclusion.

Ultimately, I think the best way to describe the mixture of sounds, emotions and impressions that Terrordyne left me with on Rebirth is to use the term ‘sublime’ in the way some philosophers did in the 18th century. Edmund Burke described it as a “delightful horror” and I think that’s precisely what Rebirth evoked in me. I enjoyed this voyage onto the darker side of synth and I think I might have to repeat it again thanks to Terrordyne.

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