Domestic Terminal – All the Stories Left to Tell

I don’t remember exactly how I found Domestic Terminal – all I know is that they have been uncannily connected to places and people I’ve known through other means. However, what I won’t forget is how I felt listening to their debut LP, I Could See Midnight Skies. While the record was released in 2020, it feels much longer ago in several respects – the first, of course, being the stress these past few years have carried, and the second being that the band has grown quite a bit as well.

For the uninitiated, Domestic Terminal play a sparkly, atmospheric brand of Midwest rock the likes of Moving Mountains, Gates, or American Football. And while they aren’t quite whiny or grating enough to truly be classified as “emo”, fans will definitely found enough crossover content to jump the fence.

While the core sound hasn’t necessarily shifted, the change from a trio to a four-piece has led to more collaboration and stronger arrangements. And even though the songs off the first LP were pretty decent, I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the production being a bit underwhelming at times. That said, All the Stories Left to Tell is a seismic follow-up that easily mitigates the pains of its predecessor and continues to build on its strengths all the same.

The album kicks off with an instrumental, “Melt Beneath the Sun”, which pairs glistening guitar chords with a bed of ambient sounds (water? traffic?). As the track moves on, it adds in bell tree and a number of auxiliary percussive elements. It’s not necessarily that interesting as a whole, but especially this latter part is powerful. Unfortunately, we don’t see too much of these auxiliary elements again on the record – but plenty of bands have proven the bell tree just WORKS for this style, so it’d be cool to see that explored further down the road.

The first “real” track off the album is the latest single, “Purple Envelope”. It’s tender-but-hopeful, with a heavy focus on melodic guitars and relaxed, whispery vocals. Bass keeps a smooth groove underneath, providing a nice punch. The drumming, especially during the bridge, is tight. Everything plays well together but each piece maintains its distinct character and purpose.

“Blessings and Curses” feels like an earlier 2000s emo deep cut. There’s a level of rawness or heaviness, and the specific rhythms, guitar patterns, and vocal influences feel nostalgic. Even the lyrics, a poetic look at familial patterns of destructions (among other things), feel just obscure enough to fit well in an earlier time.

“Koi Pond” is a great example of how collaborative the record truly is. Drummer Matt Ackman contributed lyrics here (the lyrical responsibilities were shared by three members across the album), but even with that in mind, everything is so incredibly consistent you wouldn’t even notice. Overall, this is one of the most immediate standout songs with some truly impressive drum parts. The dynamic constantly shifts and there’s a lot of energy. It’s just pretty. There are even some clever lyrical notes (the use of “coy” as a homophone, for instance). And the tremolo picking is a perfect ornament on top.

Other highlights include “Seven of Your Favorite Stars” (where the bell tree returns), “Capo 1 Song” (the most spiritually-overt of the bunch), and “When the Oceans Ran Dry” (my personal favorite off the record that reminds me of the defunct Gracer). The album even ends on the same watery sound which it started with, adding a nice layer of cohesion.

There aren’t many weak moments, but they do appear. The title track seems like the weakest with its stripped back, singer-songwriter approach. It feels a little cheesy, like a Caedmon’s Call song. The ending picks up a bit and has some cool backing vocals, but apart from this, it seems a bit out of place.

“Shapeless” is the other main exception. It’s not bad by any stretch, but the polyrhythmic drum groove for much of the song feels at odds with the vocal cadence. It’s likely a musical play off the nature of the lyrics, so I can’t be too harsh. The end pulls together quite well, too, as lyrics about space and chemistry intertwine. It doesn’t ever get too pretentious, though.

All the Stories Left to Tell is a clear step forward from its predecessor. The songwriting is more consistent. The dynamic is captivating. It’s a powerful work of glittering, melodic rock that’s sure to find an audience with fans of 90s and early 2000s emo (think The Appleseed Cast). There’s something still raw on this release that gives it a timeless feel, but it’s certainly not rough in any sort of negative way.

The record is a true collaborative effort, and it reflects a wider range of lyrical themes and a plurality of guitar tunings and song structures. There’s plenty for the average listener to enjoy, but those with a greater knowledge of composition will appreciate the rhythmic backbone in particular.

Domestic Terminal may still be a “newer” band in some respects, but this could be the album to put them on the map.

DOMESTIC TERMINAL IS:

MATT ACKMAN – drums, lyrics (tracks 4 & 9), aux percussion, backing vocals, guitars (track 9)

TIM HOTCHKISS  – guitars, lyrics (tracks 7 & 12), engineering, backing vocals

JACK MANCUSO – drums, lead vocals, engineering, lyrics (the rest of them)

KYLE WAGGONER – bass, keyboards

Follow the band on Facebook and Instagram.

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