For Fans Of
Normally, this would be the part where I’d kick off my review by talking about how crazy it is to have all these super groups doing really cool stuff in hardcore, punk, and metal right now. You know, like ‘this band’. Or ‘that band’. Blah blah, etc. etc. Yet our editor’n’chief already went over this in his review of END’s stellar debut EP, 2017’s ‘From The Unforgiving Arms Of God’. And I also went over it again in my recent review for Umbra Vitae’s debut full-length ‘Shadow of Life’ only a few weeks back. So, let’s dispense with the scene state of affairs re-treads then, alright?
With this particular collective featuring members both past and present from heavy-hitter acts including Misery Signals, Counterparts, Reign Supreme, Shai Hulud, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and Fit For An Autopsy, there’s little doubt that END are the heaviest super group around currently. On their first ever full-length record, ‘Splinters From An Ever-Changing Face,’ the overly-talented quintet pack course screams, frenzied blast-beats, noisy dissonant riffage and savage beat-downs into a concise 34-minute runtime, with “11 tracks that dive deep into a psyche of chaos, isolation, madness, and violence.” (And the psychological, mental health aspects of this record also shouldn’t be ignored.)
Let’s start with the singles, because the first taste of a new album should always whet the musical appetite of the curious listener and set the tone for the aural experience to come. On the caustic ‘Pariah,’ END make their intent perfectly clear from the outset, delivering three-and-a-half minutes of brutal, unrelenting metallic hardcore, swinging wildly between menacing atmospherics, a furious triplet-fuelled breakdown, and a bowel-splitting scream from vocalist Brendan Murphy declaring the band’s ethos: “Your fucking end!”. An early precedence set for the album that ensures that ‘Splinters From An Ever-Changing Face‘ always sounds and feels real, raw and confrontational.
Similarly, ‘Covet Not’ deals expressly in metallic hardcore (self-?)destruction, with new addition Billy Rymer’s double kick fusillade and a rhythmic, staccato chug-fest from guitarists Will Putney and Gregory Thomas. As the band explained in a social media post, “‘Covet Not’ is a song about being infatuated with familiarity, no matter how damaging it can be. Recognizing that you are suffering and running in circles, whether it be with yourself or someone else, and making peace with the situation. You cannot possess something that does not exist, and you either break free or you let it kill you.” And while we’re talking about the feeling of imminent death, recent single ‘Fear For Me Now’ feels like getting hit square in the jaw with a sledgehammer, as Putney and Thomas unfurl punishing, discordant riffage against bassist Jay Petito’s bone-crushing bottom end.
Elsewhere on ‘Splinters From An Ever-Changing Face,’ END do their utmost to mix things up and raise the stakes with every turn of the track list. ‘Hesitation Wounds’ slows thing down just enough to get buried in murky sludge. Whereas ‘Captive To My Curse’ and ‘Every Empty Vein’ hit like rapid pump-action shotgun blasts of fury and discontent, with insane fills and cracking snare hits from Rymer as Murphy’s harsh screams ring forth from the seven circles of hell. The pneumatic breakdowns in ‘The Reach of Resurrection’ and ‘Evening Arms’ might just rival ‘Necessary Death’ for causing similar headbang-related injuries, and ‘An Apparition’ finds END doing their best Converge impression and just completely fucking nailing it.
And perhaps most surprisingly, the record also features two outstanding and left-of-centre guest vocal appearances. The indomitable Pete Morcey of 100 Demons fame pops up at the end of ‘Absence,’ bouncing his trademark roar off Murphy’s gutturals screams. Meanwhile, album closer ‘Sands of Sleep’ makes good use of Tanner Merritt from indie-rock outfit O’Brother in the track’s mid-section, with Merritt’s folk-tinged croon adding a spooky, carnival-esque vibe to the instrumental dirge, further accentuating the raw heaviness of the final concluding breakdown. (Always nice to see different names in hardcore when it comes to guest features, as opposed to seeing the same four or five vocalists.)
No matter where you sit on the hardcore-metal spectrum, END have a little something for everyone on their long-awaited first full-length record. What the band may choose to sacrifice in terms of contemporary notions of accessibility or melodic enticement, they more than make up for with brutal, outright savage intent and palpable sonic potency. Ultimately, ‘Splinters From An Ever-Changing Face’ is their most violent, therapeutic and cohesive collection of material to date, with songs tailor made for blood-letting, spin-kicking, and skin-shredding — or whatever takes your fancy.
- Covet Not
- Absence (feat. Pete Morcey)
- The Reach of Resurrection
- Fear For Me Now
- Hesitation Wounds
- Captive To My Curse
- Evening Arms
- An Apparition
- Every Empty Vein
- Sands of Sleep (feat. Tanner Merritt)
‘Splinters From an Ever-Changing Face’ is available from June 5th via Closed Casket Activities. You can find physical and digital copies of the record here.