Terminal Nation’s Dalton Rail – Thirst To Burn

Arkansas’ Terminal Nation have been releasing short and intense bursts of noise since 2014, but 2020 sees them finally release their debut full length, Holocene Extinction. The album comes at the perfect time, as the theme of a mass extinction event in motion feels at home in an America that is both figuratively and literally on fire.

While the band’s previous releases have largely been a mixture of power violence and hardcore with some metallic fourishes, Holocene Extinction mixes in a large dose of death metal, enough that the title track sounds like it could be from Gatecreeper’s debut Sonoran Deprevation.

We caught up with guitarist Dalton Rail to discuss releasing a record you can’t tour behind, the best death metal albums to convert hardcore fans, and his approach to getting a super thick tone.

You guys have been a band for quite a while, I see your first demo was released all the way back in 2014. Why did 2020 feel like the time to finally release your first record? Did you have advance notice that 2020 was going to be the shitshow to end all shitshows, making the lyrics all the more relevant?

We started working on new material shortly after our last release, ‘Absolute Control’. A lot of the music has been waiting in the chamber for over a year and a half before we got to start recording our first full length.

We truly took our time refining and polishing this record into what we really wanted, and by the time we had nailed down a package that we felt was worthy to be delivered, 2020 was wreaking havoc on the world.

We debated on waiting to release it, but felt that the timing was incredibly prescient. The lyrics and songs were written years ago about issues that were taking place, and unbeknownst to us, amplified severely at the time of release. 

Obviously Covid makes touring impractical until at least next year – was there a point where you guys considered holding on to the record to see if this all blew over?

There was a period of time where we wondered if the release would be effective if released, and although there were some set backs as far as timing goes (album was originally intended to release in early 2020) we ultimately decided that the people in power need to hear the voices of the world, especially those who are hurting.

We try to be a voice for those who need to be heard. 

Terminal Nation Guitar Interview

How did you hook up with Jason Tedford? How was recording with him?

We had recorded our previous release (Absolute Control, 2017) with him. We recorded in different studios in between then and now. We decided on Wolfman Studios based off of studio capacity, as well as recommendations from our mixing engineer, Ryan Bram. He included how many mics he preferred and all the technical details, and Tedford was very accommodating for this.

His studio is set up well with a lot of great equipment. Overall recording took 4.5 days of tracking. Days were long, but his set up is comfortable enough to where we didn’t rush. 

Ryan Bram at Homewrecker Studios mixed the record. He’s worked on a bunch of killer records, not least the whole Gatecreeper discography – how did that come about, and how was working with him?

Ryan Bram is an absolute pleasure to work with. Very straight forward, respectful, and does incredible work.

I found Ryan through gear related social media (Instagram and gear forums), and opening communication with him was very easy.

He offered a quick turnaround, and was very willing to adjust things as needed for us to be happy with the work. 

Terminal Nation Guitar Interview

So on to guitars – what were some of the records that got you into playing heavy shit?

I draw a lot of influence from sludge, death metal, and metallic hardcore. Some of my favorite bands that sculpted my guitar playing include Crowbar, Morbid Angel, All Out War, Bolt Thrower, and Black Sabbath.

I’d say my top records would be Sonic Excess In It’s Purest Form – Crowbar, Covenant – Morbid Angel, and Master of Reality – Black Sabbath.

All throughout my younger years I regularly listened to Crowbar, which are a staple for me, being from the south and all.

Covenant is huge because of one song in particular, God of Emptiness. The first time I heard that song on Headbangers Ball, I was petrified. I was hooked from then on.

Sabbath in general is huge for me because I’m a lefty just like Tony. Huge influence on my younger years of playing guitar. 

Terminal Nation Guitar Interview

What were some of the records that you were thinking of when you worked on the tone for this record specifically?

For our instrumental sounds, I wanted to emulate some of my favorite older cavernous death metal tones, while also bringing in some of the thicker, southern sludge molasses-like riffs we all love.

Think Cursed by Morgoth meets Through Silver in Blood by Neurosis

Tell me about the gear used for the record. Did you guys play your own existing stuff or were there extra amps etc used specifically for the record? Any fun tricks you guys pulled out to get such a thick, dense sound?

Tone-wise, I’ve always been on the hunt for something unique. I’m a big fan of merging classical genre specific sounds and making my own.

As far as the gear, Tedford has a great selection of amps and cabs. We used his 50 watt JCM 800 and SVT Classic, as well as a Marshall 1960 cab and 2 4×10 Ampeg professional series bass cabs.

Terminal Nation Guitar Interview

For our own gear, I brought my 1973 Ampeg V4, 5150, and Laney GH100L. Tommy brought his 50 watt 5150 iii which I’m always super impressed with.

Terminal Nation Guitar Interview

Each guitar track is doubled and all bass tracks have a dirty and a clean DI to have maximum retention of low end.

We used a decent selection of our own guitars, all for different purposes. Tommy used his Charvel and his ESP, I used my Edwards Explorer and Gibson SG.

Terminal Nation Guitar Interview

We brought a ton of pedals to run through the amps to give them a distinct difference from Tommy’s side to mine. That’s a method we like to use to making us sound as thick and full as we can. My tracks are a little booming and fuzzier, while Tommy’s are more sharp and refined. 

Terminal Nation Guitar Interview

Final question – for the hardcore crowd who like your band, what are two death metal records they would probably dig? Same but for death metal fans? And for both, what are some grind and powerviolence records they should all check out?

Such a good question, I could spend months thinking on this one. But here’s my recommendations.

For the hardcore crowd, I heavily recommend Entombed’s ‘Left Hand Path’ and Celtic Frost’s ‘Morbid Tales’. LHP has some of the most weighted riffs, even today. A great introduction to death metal, while Celtic Frost is just a great all around band who pioneered early death metal that we appreciate today. 

For the death metal cats, two classic hardcore records that I’d suggest are ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ by Agnostic Front, and a personal favorite of mine, ‘Look My Way’ by Madball. These two records just embody everything that is hardcore, from the lyrics, the attitude, and the presence. Two absolute forces to be reckoned with.

For you all, I recommend Despise You’s ‘West Side Horizons’ and ‘Human Overdose’ by Hatred Surge. Two powerhouses that deliver good riffs, and are my favorites in their respective genres. 

While you’re here, check out our list of best metal guitars, plus our interviews with Brian Ortiz of Xibalba and the dudes from Frozen Soul.

  • Brian Kelleher

    I'm the main guy at KillerGuitarRigs.com and I want to tell you all about guitars. I've been playing music since 1986 when my older brother taught me to play "Gigantic" by The Pixies on a bass with two strings. Since then, I've owned dozens of instruments from guitars to e-drums, and spent more time than I'd like to admit sitting in vans waiting for venues to open across Europe and the US.