'Splinters From An Ever-Changing Face' Review: End's debut album is a vicious and unrelenting metalcore assault
This is an explosive black/hardcore metal affair with high-octane drumming, rampaging guitars, bristly bass and screeching, guttural vocals thrown in for good measure
The all-star supergroup of metalcore, End are back with their first full-length album ‘Splinters From An Ever-Changing Face’, which dropped last week via Closed Casket Activities. This comes as a follow-up to their 2017 debut EP, ‘From The Unforgiving Arms of God’, which piqued the interest of fans and fellow artists in the metal scene. The band currently consists of vocalist Brendan Murphy (Counterparts), guitarists Will Putney (Fit For An Autopsy) and Gregory Thomas (ex-Misery Signals, ex-Shai Hulud), bassist Jay Pepito (Reign Supreme, ex-Blacklisted) and drummer Billy Rymer (Thoughtcrimes, ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan). Together, these high-profile names form an explosive coterie of metal mastery, proving their worth as movers and shakers in the metalcore scene. The end product of this fantastic studio outing together is an explosive black/hardcore metal affair. It's filled with high octane drumming, raging vocal antics that range from black metal style screeching, hardcore screaming and guttural gang shouts, all to the accompaniment of rampaging guitars and bristly bass.
The opening track ‘Covet Not’ is an outright aural assault. According to the band, ‘Covet Not’ is about “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." Fans of The Dillinger Escape Plan will be familiar with Rymer’s prowess behind the kit and with End, Rymer is elevating his status as one of the best hardcore drummers in the scene today. Murphy and bassist Pepito take on vocal duties with Murphy leading the charge and Pepito jumping in during breaks. True to the hardcore paradigm, ‘Covet Not’ features a massive breakdown with slow muted riff sections leading to the outro.
‘Pariah’ kicks in next and follows the intensity of ‘Covet Not’, barely letting the listener recover. Putney andThomas make their presence felt with massive chords and lightning-fast, chaotic runs right before the heavy breakdown. While all the band members have pushed the envelope in the metalcore genre with their previous outfits, one can definitely hear other influences like death metal and black metal manifesting in the songs. Murphy is an absolute beast on this track and lends his painful screams to easily one of the best breakdowns on the album.
The angsty ‘Absence’ is up next and this is a vicious track with a strong black metal aesthetic. Rymer is in full flow as guitarists Putney and Thomas alternatively pick the screaming guitars in harmony. This gives way to more frantically-paced sections as the band switches tempos before settling into hardcore territory. Gang shouts are aplenty and increase in intensity during the aural blitzkrieg until the song progressively slows before fading out with a dialogue sample.
‘The Reach of Resurrection’ is similar in structure and style to ‘Covet Not’. It employs punishingly fast sections interspersed with room for the guitarists Putney and Thomas to keep the arrangements interesting. The song features a breakaway section halfway through, with Rymer’s drums galloping at full steam before returning to a slower, more pronounced march that combines with the deadly chugging guitars to maximum effect. Both Murphy and Pepito sound monstrous on the vocals, with Murphy sounding especially dominant in the breakdown sections.
‘Fear For Me Now’ is one of the shorter outings on the album. Putney and Thomas open the song with a picked etude that sets the atmosphere for the song before it transforms into a nightmarish beast. Rymer takes center stage here as he unleashes a barrage of syncopated beats with incredible finesse and intensity. One might also observe that Rymer’s addition has definitely enhanced the band's approach to songwriting. Additionally, the stripped-raw sound adds to the heavy, relentless mood of End, giving it a grisly and authentic feel. The gnarly guitar feedback juxtaposed with the massive muddy tones is a delight and only enhances the unpredictability in this supergroup’s music.
Positioned right in the center of the album, ‘Hesitation Wounds’ is one hell of a song. Opening with a dialogue sample, the track evolves into a murky, swampy behemoth. End manages to crank up the visceral effect of their music by playing intelligently with arrangements, tempo, and instrumentation. The black metal ambiance bleeds in with the eclectic guitar lines throughout the song and the melodic outro is equal parts ornate and morose. ‘Hesitation Wounds’ successfully blends dread and rage into a strange concoction and is destined to be a firecracker in the mosh pits that follow.
At under two minutes, ‘Captive To My Curse’ is a short burst of hardcore-infused rage. There’s no shortage of deft musicianship, right from the breakneck pace of the first minute or the breakdown-laden second minute that slows things down to an impending trudge of gloom and doom. In true grind style, End really shines as a band in their shorter numbers.
‘Evening Arms’ is another furious rager, akin to a kicking and squealing demon child. Murphy’s vocals deserve special praise as he sends the energy levels through the roof. The band has mastered the art of delivering tight bursts of mayhem, before grabbing your attention with nifty syncopation or a tempo change. Here, however, they opt to end the song with a dialogue sample from a movie that breaks the sonic template but still upholds the mood.
‘An Apparition’ marches in next and this is a ghostly screamer of a track, performed with aplomb. Featuring black metal-style passages with a healthy serving of double bass drum blasts, the track slams its way past the two-minute mark in a dizzying blur. ‘An Apparition’ is fast, unforgiving and packs a razor-sharp bite with its enormous, shuddering guitars and throbbing bass.
‘Every Empty Vein’, the penultimate track on the album kicks off with Rymer’s pyrotechnics and gives way to apoplectic guitars, bass and eventually gang shouts. At under two minutes, this track is the shortest on the album and features a sampled conversation about hell at the end. Breaking from hardcore & punk tradition, End have used samples here more like death metal or grind artistes would have done throughout the album.
At a little over five minutes, ‘Sands of Sleep’ is the album closer and also the lengthiest track. The longer song format also admittedly allows for the song's sections to breathe a bit more than usual. The song features a powerhouse performance from Murphy that is juxtaposed nicely with some serene and graceful vocal interludes. Ultimately, the track is quite a departure from the other tracks on the album in terms of its structure, arrangement, and mood. There’s a more ominous vibe to this song and the ambient instrumentation that hums along behind the screeching guitars, thundering bass and beating drums that only accentuate this.
With ‘Splinters From An Ever-Changing Face’, End have marked their return to the scene with a ferocious record that will thrill their metalcore listener base, black metal fans and anyone who enjoys aggressively heavy music. Fans will also have much to look forward to if this incendiary album were to be played live, considering how technically adept these musicians are. All said and done, ‘Splinters from An Ever-Changing Face’ is an uncompromisingly heavy album that will be a benchmark for the members and fans alike. It's also an ominous sign of better things to come - this is just the beginning for End.