Ever since their formation in 2004, Tera Melos hasn’t followed the crowd, forging musical paths where most people haven’t even thought about going. This tradition continues with the newest album added to the Tera Melos discography, Patagonian Rats. It’s unique in every sense of the word and is a solid progression from the band’s previous releases which include their debut full-length, an EP, a split album with By The End Of Tonight, and a covers EP.
As the album starts up, the most significant change to the band’s previous sound is the inclusion of vocals. Now, Tera Melos has always experimented with singing, even back on the 4-track demo but they’ve always either been distorted, quiet, or overall difficult to understand. This has changed with the new album. Nick Reinhart (guitars/vocals/keys/samples) really started showing off his singing on both Tera’s covers EP, Idioms Vol. 1 and with his side-project Bygones (a duo consisting of him and Zach Hill (of Hella fame)). But with Patagonian Rats, Reinhart has upped the ante and has started writing lyrical lines that weave between the spastic playing styles of the rest of the band. His voice sometimes follows the guitar line such as in the verse of “The Skin Surf.” Yet at other times he will fly lightly over technical sections ala the middle of “Aped.”
Though this three-piece has taken an unexpected vocal turn, their sound is just as obscure and interesting as before. Reinhart’s guitar dances along the fretboard in erratic motions and pours out some of the craziest sounds of any album this year. His signature technicality is intact and shinning through, but there’s definitely a new element this time around. It’s more melodic and poppy. That’s not to say that Tera has at all “sold-out,” but the songs are now more controlled and it’s possible for new listeners to find a beat which was pretty difficult to hear on past releases.
The group’s rhythm section has tightened up as well, making the music pull together better than ever before. This can be almost directly attributed to the new(-ish) drummer, John Clardy. Inducted in 2008, Clardy has already released an album with Tera (Idioms) but PR is the first record that he’s had a direct musical influence on. The band’s previous drummer, Vince Rogers, had a much more spastic playing style (ala Zach Hill) whereas Clardy’s is still irregular but also able to keep the music in a discernible beat. Fortunately, the band’s sound has evolved to a point where Clardy’s style excellently shows off the rest of the band and doesn’t fall behind in creativity.
Patagonian Rats not only shows off Tera’s talent, but also their range. At first glance, one would say that the album is a math-rock record but in looking deeper into it there’s much more to the songs. Take the track “Party With Gina,” for example. This nine minute epic has elements of math-rock, post-rock, post-hardcore, and prog rock all combined seamlessly into one of the best songs on the album. You could also look at “Another Surf” which is essentially the “bridge” (if you want to call it that) of “The Skin Surf” stretched out into a full song. The track is thrash punk, a heavy riff playing throughout while the band goes crazy on top of it.
From the explosive “Westham United” to the groovy “Frozen Zoo,” Tera Melos’ new album has taken the group to the next level. The inclusion of vocals has overall made the band more accessible while still keeping them out of reach of anything close to mainstream. Patagonian Rats is one of the most interesting releases of this year and has pushed the musical envelope yet again.