“The premise is just fast, unrelenting punk rock.”
That’s vocalist Chris Taylor talking about Terminal Bliss, the new band he’s formed with his brother and guitarist Mike Taylor, drummer Ryan Parrish and bassist Adam Juresko. With a pedigree that includes Pg. 99 and Pygmy Lush (the Taylors), Darkest Hour and Iron Reagan (Parrish) and City of Caterpillar (Juresko, Parrish) the members of Terminal Bliss are a veritable who’s who of Virginia punk.
“We’ve all orbited each other’s bands forever,” Taylor says. “It’s been going on 20 years since I met Ryan—we used to live together. So we’ve been in and out of each other’s circles forever.”
Inspired by the likes of Born Against, Gauze and Void—not to mention Black Flag, Crass, Negative Approach, Disrupt, Necros, Crossed Out and Disclose—Terminal Bliss conducted their first band practice on January 14th, 2020. Just six weeks and five practices later, they were recording their full-length debut, Brute Err/ata, with Majority Rule frontman Matt Michel in the engineer’s chair.
“I’ve been in so many bands, and I’ve never seen such efficiency and like-mindedness,” Taylor observes. “My brother brings the bulk of the songs and then they just kinda Rubik’s Cube those things real quick. Before you know it, the song is done. But if you listen to it, it doesn’t sound like a rush job. It sounds like a bunch of guys who know their stuff.”
The name Terminal Bliss was born out of the merciless consumerism and environmental destruction that are America’s enduring legacy. “It’s very literal, and very emblematic of us as a culture and a country,” Taylor offers. “Bliss, joy, indulgence at all costs—even if it’s gonna kill us. It felt appropriate and kind of surprised us at how relevant it was, even to the content of the album.”
In fact, it’s those twin scourges—those gross miscalculations—that inform the lyrical themes of Brute Err/ata. “I tried to be really intentional about the concept of consumerism,” Taylor says. “We’re not thinking of anything sustainably. The concept of a growth-without-limits consumer society is enough of a nightmare in and of itself. But we’re actually in it.”
Add to that a hellish layer of sci-fi prognostication and you’ll have an idea of where short sharp shocks like “Dystopian Buffet,” “March of the Grieving Droid” and “Hidden Handed Artificial Harassment Run Amok” are coming from. “I fantasize or go off the rails about trans-humanism and bio-merging into technology,” Taylor explains. “Technology as this weapon of affluence. Even the poorest among us seem to have a phone. It’s embedded itself in our humanity. What will it take to rip ourselves out of it? Will we ever?”
All of which dovetails into the album title itself. “It’s using the concept of a brute force algorithm, which just slams into a problem by throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it,” Taylor says. “And this algorithm is taking us over. This thing designed to make us more hungry and thirsty consumers becomes sentient and becomes our overlord. With Err/ata just being an error. It’s a brutal error we’re making. We’re fucking shit up.”
Elsewhere, Taylor employs intentionally sterile corporate-speak to comment on the daily banalities of customer service robots and the apathy of the checked-out masses on “Small One Time Fee” and “8 Billion People Reported Missing.” “There’s a lot of consumer language in the lyrics, like ‘Please hold’ and ‘Thank you so much for your patience’—just little things people are constantly dealing with,” Taylor confirms. “We don’t talk to people anymore—we talk to machines if we’ve got a problem to fix at the bank or whatever it is. So it’s this grandiose, ‘Where is everybody?’”
The most personal song on Brute Err/ata is the dizzying seesaw opener “Clean Bill Of Wealth,” which references the grueling institutional experience that accompanied the death of the Taylor brothers’ father three years ago. “He ended up in the hospital for six months and they made some major mistakes,” Taylor explains. “But nobody would tell us that he was gonna die. They love hope—it’s a commodity for them. They want you to think he’s gonna make it. They wanna keep him intubated so they can milk that insurance. It’s a pay-to-die system, and it was heart-wrenching.”
It’s this merging of personal experience and social critique that have informed punk for decades now. For Taylor and Terminal Bliss, it’s become a crucial combination born of decades of playing live. (Unfortunately, the band’s first show was cancelled when the US began its COVID-19 lockdown.) “I realized early on that if you don’t write something that resonates with yourself on a fundamental level, it’s going to get trite when you’re performing night after night,” he says. “So, with the idea in mind that we’ll eventually play shows, I always try to write something that will resonate.”