Before you listen to Terror Universal’s Make Them Bleed (Minus Head) make sure to take a good look at the album for a minute or two. Approach this experiment as a Heavy Metal Rorschach test. What do you see? How does it make you feel? I see four blokes that look like they walked off the set of Max Landis’ latest “masterwork” Bright. Then I hopped on the Wayback Machine and was transported to the wild west that was the nu-metal years.
The nu-metal years, also commonly referred to as the first two years of high school. I was a much more awkward, less enlightened (though certainly thinner) version of myself who made up for lack of facial hair by sporting a wallet chain long enough to walk the dog. And the same holds true for most of my friends during that period. As far as we were concerned, DJs were totally acceptable in heavy music and Jonathan Davis was a misunderstood poet. We would later repent for our fashion sins and convert to the unholy church of Deicide and Opeth and vowed to never speak of Papa Roach’s Infest (Dreamworks) again. That era is remembered in history as senior year.
Now you’re several songs into Make Them Bleed you can hear the Spineshank, Fear Factory and Five Finger Death Punch influences. The liner notes mention that Terror Universal’s founding members are Ahrue Luster (ex-Machine Head) and his Ill Niño bandmate Dave Chavarri, in the roles of Diabolus and Massacre, respectively. ‘Passage of Pain (Blood)’ and ‘Welcome to Hell’ establish that Make Them Bleed’s 10 tracks will strictly adhere to a verse-chorus-verse structure, but that formula can still work.
Yes, to the seasoned metal listener this convention can wear thin, and occasionally that kind chorus worship can misfire as we hear in ‘Spines’ and ‘Dead on Arrival,’ but for the most part, Plagues’ vocals deliver. And I’m not opposed to a melodic or tuneful song. I own Killswitch Engage’s discography and their bread and butter are contrasting sandpaper playing with soaring melody. And while speaking on that musical contrast, Terror Universal does nail that balance on ‘Make Them Bleed’ and ‘Your Time Has Come.’ Does that title track contain, let’s say sophomoric lyrics like “Spread the violence, fuck the world?” Yeah, but you better believe it’s getting stuck in your head.
So, open that time capsule labeled nu-metal and approach without caution. Make Them Bleed is a collection of inoffensive and perfectly adequate radio metal that lines the bills of festivals like Carolina Rebellion and Rock on the Range every year. Let this be the entrance point for young minds looking to jump into the metal pool.