Terminal Sleep’s Will Robinson prides himself on being a good lead guitarist. Social media manager, though? Not so much.
Last November, the Melbourne hardcore band had a short clip filmed at a show in Sydney – specifically a snippet of them performing debut single ‘Death Therapy’. Robinson thought they should put it on their band’s Instagram Story, which followers can view for 24 hours. But their vocalist Bec Thorwesten suggested uploading it as a Reel – making it more permanent, but also exposing it to the platform’s fickle algorithm.
As Robinson says, “Thank fuck she did.”
The video, with its potent showcase of Thorwesten’s guttural vocals and Terminal Sleep’s pummeling downtuned riffs, has amassed over 1.5million views to date. Before the viral clip, friends of the band would leave jokey social media comments asking them to “come to Brazil”; now, actual South Americans plead Terminal Sleep to bring their belligerent and blunt-force hardcore out on tour.
“We had no idea that was going to happen,” says rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Dominic Lewis. Terminal Sleep were “doing fairly decently for a new band”, he says, but the clip led to shares and co-signs from the likes of BBC Radio 1 Rock Show host Daniel P. Carter, The Needle Drop critic Anthony Fantano and even Trivium frontman Matt Heafy.
“The numbers don’t mean everything, of course, and we don’t consider ourselves to be rockstars or anything,” Lewis adds, “but to see that audience growth has been completely surreal.”
“I definitely had intent when I started the project: I wanted to do the heaviest band I’d ever done. I wanted big, ignorant breakdowns and dive-bombs everywhere”
After stepping down as guitarist for Clowns, Robinson co-founded Terminal Sleep while in Melbourne’s extensive lockdown period. Though Robinson largely enjoyed his five years and two albums with the group, he’d decided it was time to form the band he’d always wanted to be in. “I’ve always leaned towards heavier music that’s more extreme,” he says. “I definitely had intent when I started the project: I wanted to do the heaviest band I’d ever done. I wanted big, ignorant breakdowns and dive-bombs everywhere – and I wanted to just not give a shit if it was cheesy or not.”
“I knew I had my work cut out for me when Will sent me the demos,” says Lewis with a laugh. “I was really excited, though. Like Will, this is music I’ve wanted to play for a really long time. One thing that’s been really inspiring is how he’s pushed all of us to write outside of the box. We share a lot of the same influences, but we all come at it from quite different ways, which helps to bring that mix of flavours into the sound. It’s just become this perfect vessel, and we’re having a lot of fun with it.”
Rounded out by bassist Dustin Santos and drummer Todd Tombleson, Terminal Sleep released their debut EP, ‘Chapter 1: No Solace’, last November (just three weeks before the viral video). Their no-holds-barred sound – anchored by Thorwesten’s pained screams and Robinson’s snarling riffs, captured in the EP’s breathless 14 minutes – quickly made them one of the most exciting new bands on Australia’s hardcore circuit. They’ve made sure not to lose momentum, dropping its companion piece ‘Chapter 2: Elicit Fear’ just six months later.
“We got a comment on YouTube that said, ‘My sister is starting a hardcore band because of what Bec’s doing’”
Though its material was largely forged in the same fire as ‘No Solace’, on the new EP Terminal Sleep build on their foundations and further realise their collective potential. “This one is definitely a little more experimental,” says Robinson. “We’re still a heavy hardcore band, but this one is definitely leaning more towards that metalcore sound and is a bit more catered to the technical side of things. I think we went bigger for the choruses, too, which pair well with the blast-beats and the wonky guitar work.”
Several songs, including the blistering title track, were road-tested on the ‘Thot Domination’ national tour in January (an amazing name for a tour befitting the band’s bio: “Terminal Sleep is about being a bad bitch”). The band joined forces with Newcastle’s Volatile Ways for a run of sold-out gigs, with every line-up featuring bands with female and non-binary members. Given what is still largely a male-dominated scene, creating this space meant a lot to both bands. Robinson calls the tour “probably our greatest achievement thus far”.
“They were no different fundamentally to other hardcore shows – there were still people going wild every night,” he says. “It just wasn’t a whole bunch of fucking dudes, like it has been for years. Opening that space for others, letting them know they’re welcome… that’s the best possible outcome. We proved it was possible, and it’s always been possible.”
The band’s far-reaching exposure on social media has been a double-edged sword. On one hand, sexist commentary on Thorwesten’s vocals and appearance has plagued every video that even mentions Terminal Sleep – which has, needless to say, taken its toll.
“Misogyny is rampant,” says Robinson. “I saw it on tour with Clowns whenever dudes would talk to Hanny [Tilbrook, bassist], and it’s the exact same with Bec. These fucking incel losers go out of their way to get a rise out of people to make themselves feel good. The shit Bec writes about in her lyrics, the exact same shit, is there in the comments. It’s fucking toxic.”
“We’re all super proud of her,” adds Lewis. “She’s been able to carry herself with such dignity, and continues to do so because unfortunately this sort of stuff just doesn’t go away overnight. It’s been great to see how quickly people will step in to shut it down. The more people challenge it, the better it gets for everyone.”
The guitarists also note the incredible messages they’ve received from young women who see themselves in Thorwesten – and find themselves inspired to step up to the plate because of her.
“We got a comment on YouTube that said, ‘My sister is starting a hardcore band because of what Bec’s doing’,” says Robinson. “We’re getting these messages from people all over the world. That’s way bigger an accomplishment than anything some guy with no profile picture and two followers has ever done.”
Terminal Sleep’s new EP ‘Chapter 2: Elicit Fear’ is out now.