Terra Mater: Holocene Extinction

- When talking about the historical impact of punk music, another musical genre beginning with “p” is often mentioned – prog. Not in a nice way, either. The story usually goes something like this – ‘70’s rock was one long bore, filled with interminable keyboard solos and fantasy novel lyrics; until punk came along and blasted it all away three chord, three minute bursts of energy. Punk’s evolution into hardcore seemingly ended any chances of musical reconciliation, with musical finesse completely discarded in favour of faster, harder brutality.

But time, as we know, can heal old wounds. And so it is that forty years after punk’s initial assault on prog rock, we can now enjoy delights like Holocene Extinction, the debut cassette/download from Brisbane crust punks Terra Mater. Not only do they take their band name from the Latin dictionary and incorporate violin into their sound, but the release consists of a single, seventeen minute song.

Holocene Extinction starts off slowly and quietly. So quietly in fact you’re not sure at first that you actually pressed play, as the violin comes creeping into audibility accompanied at first only by a few sparse bass notes. The violin playing gradually moves from slow bowing to something more melodic, and then after two minutes and forty seconds the rest of the band finally enters in crushing style. It’s another minute and a half from there before the vocals arrive – a duet between a raspy female throat and a lower male roar.

Unlike most prog epics, there are no flashy solos filling up the time here. The few times when the violin takes the lead it’s hardly virtuoso playing. No, the thing that keeps you engaged past the quarter hour mark is Terra Mater’s exercise in dynamics. The song expands and contracts - building tension with sustained buildups that culminate in furious blasts of noise and raging call and response vocals, before it all collapses and starts over again. When the song begins to conclude, it still takes a couple of minutes to fade out, like an exhausted and wounded man stumbling to his eventual demise.

Speaking of demise, the lyrics of Holocene Extinction are really worth mentioning. Not that they are readily decipherable from listening to the song, but they are helpfully provided in the lyric sheet. This one can be filed in the rare category of environmental protest songs that are actually pro climate change – forecasting catastrophic apocalypse with misanthropic glee.

Can’t you feel the pain of the forest?” the song asks. “Entsentient beast! / Your race on the brink of extinction.” The song’s final brutal peak is like the violent climax of the storm, and yet the lyrics evoke happy endings - “repossession, redemption”.

Our extinction as a species has never sounded so good. But nature, even human nature, has a remarkable ability to adapt. And so despite their best intentions, Terra Mater’s melding of disparate musical styles could indicate there is hope for our planet yet.

- Andy Paine.

Album Details

Album Title: Holocene Extinction
Artist: Terra Mater
Record Label: (Indie)