And that is to be one of Australia’s most promising bands around; one that consistently produces uncompromising and exquisite music.
Sydney’s Endless Heights are one of the most consistent bands that our country has to its name, and they’ve kept this ever-expanding track record on the rise since their inception in 2009. That much is also true with the quintet’s latest two-track release, ‘Pray I Fade‘, a release which slots very nicely into their discography and which hints at bigger and better things for the group.
For those somehow unaware, this quintet has slogged it out across the Australian circuit for over seven years now. In that time, they released their previous EP, 2015’s rather solid ‘Teach You How To Leave‘, and prior to that, they dropped 2013’s most excellent LP, ‘New Bloom‘, which featured some truly great melodic punk/hardcore tunes like ‘Honest Life‘, the surreal ‘Mosaic‘, the punchy ‘Matador‘, and the utterly gorgeous soundscape that was ‘Coral Castle‘. Prior to that terrific period in the band’s lifespan, you had the three-track offering of ‘Lady Wisdom‘, and then even further back, closer to their genesis was their debut EP, ‘Dream Strong‘, which… well, we don’t really talk about that one anymore (and the release that came before that time has long since forgotten). But coming back to the now, this new two-track release, which short of dropping one solid single is the very definition of quality over quantity, is at it’s simplest and purest form, more Endless Heights to enjoy. It is indeed a lighter musical shade for the Sydney band but it is by no means a bad one. Both of these two new songs, ‘Drain‘ and ‘Pray I Fade‘, still sound like Endless Heights in terms of the guitars, the drumming, the phrasing and chord voicing, except now they are a slightly more mature version of that core sound. Of course, that term – ‘mature’ – gets used a lot in music writing and has become very cliché nowadays, but here, it feels truly warranted as a band seemingly begins to mature their sound.
“Endless Heights stepped away from a full-on tour schedule in 2016 to rediscover the next direction for our music and art”, writes vocalist Joel Martorana in the press release for this duo. “Pray I Fade, in this sense, represents a promise – that we have more to say and leave with listeners. We aren’t done, and we want to delve further into the messaging and truth that began with our 2015 EP, Teach You How To Leave. We’re excited about where our music is heading, and couldn’t help but share a glimpse of what’s to come right in the here and now. The Pray I Fade 7” features two singles and opens up ‘2 sides of the story’ [represented by the blurred faces in the artwork and the band’s recent promo shots] with a whole array of themes and questions that we’ll explore through further releases.”
One thing to bear in mind about this new pair of songs is that Endless Heights aren’t a band with a really strong commercial appeal, nor are they sitting atop the pile in their respective genre in the Australian or international scene, despite consistently good releases. Yet ‘Pray I Fade‘ shows the group at perhaps their most approachable, both musically and sonically, to a wider musical mass, with slightly less emphasis on their punk rock influences and hardcore undertones, instead choosing to focus on having stronger melodies, more ambient and spatial effects, clean singing, and tighter song structures.
The first of the two songs to be released was ‘Drain‘ back in November (the video of which you can find below) and it’s sound echoes the likes Basement, Title Fight, just with noticeably less reverb and chorus, and other bands of that ilk. Whether their fans or the band themselves like it or not, these comparisons are nearly inescapable when considering Endless Heights in this current iteration. From the song’s impactful and epic chorus, to the reverb and chorus-heavy guitars, to the various vocal layers and the actual singing displayed by Martorana (think of his vocals like that of Polar Bear Club’s Jimmy Stadt progression between ‘Chasing Hamburg‘ and that band’s last album, ‘Death Chorus‘); this is indeed the “poppiest” material the Sydney outfit have offered thus far into their seven-year career. But it doesn’t feel like a sell out move or a comprise at all, and it stands as more of a natural progression. For instance, we’ve heard Martorana sing before but never like this. The band has taken this rather popular melodic punk sound, one that was already echoed in their previous works, and they have tried to make it their own. However, as those previous comparisons to other bands prove, no, this sound isn’t quite their own – at least, not yet – but that’s not for a lack of trying with the band once again writing honest, cathartic songs that are just as melodic as they are energetic and enjoyable, which is what this latest release achieves in droves.
On the other side of the coin is the release’s title track, ‘Pray I Fade‘, which came more recently on December 6th, originally premiering via TheMusic.com.au. Martorana stated that “Pray I Fade is about the consequences of toxic relationships. It delves into misrepresentation and jealousy; how people may ‘paint you’ in retrospect for your actions or beliefs. It’s also about the ‘cost’ of pursuing your innermost passions and the distractions that can undermine this”. He also added that “It’s a powerful and often counter-cultural leap of faith that may depend on severing relationships that oppose you in this path. Is it easier to take the sedatives in life and keep these limiting relationships alive, rather than grow and risk losing everything?”
Well, yes, I would say that it is certainly easier for people to grin and bear it than risk losing it all, but potentially rhetorical questioning aside, the title track may just contain one of the band’s best choruses to date; standing right up there with the likes of ‘Mosaic‘ and ‘Matador‘. ‘Pray I Fade‘, as a song and as a full two-track release, is by its very nature to the point and potent in its musical delivery. This song is also perhaps the closest ode to their “older” sound, especially in some of Martorana’s vocals in the pre-chorus sections. The surging rhythm section and spatial guitars intertwine so well, and goddamnit, the way that the track coupled wondrously reverberant guitar lead parts with the ethereal choral vocals in its chorus is utterly gorgeous!
I think it’s safe to say that no matter what direction the band takes in the future, they’ll never lose their grand ear for melody and songwriting.
Of course, if I had to choose the very best of Endless Heights releases, it would still be without a doubt ‘New Bloom‘. By a country fucking mile. With that being said, ‘Pray I Fade‘ is very close to that benchmark and watching this band beginning to slowly metamorph into new territory while still holding onto what musically makes them… them, is just a joy to watch. If this is what the future holds for the band, then hopefully, big things are set in stone for Endless Heights. My fingers are tightly crossed that they do not fade away into the ether from here on in.
Be sure to check out the band’s 2017 tour dates with Taking Back Sunday here. And trust me, Endless Heights are a damned good live act. It’s not like I’ve seen them five damn times or anything.
PC: Jennifer Poon.