Genre: Hardcore, 90’s Metalcore, Mathcore, Grindcore
Release Date: 5 June 2020
Almost three years ago, super group END consisting of members from Counterparts, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Misery Signals, Shai Hulud and Reign Supreme released their debut EP From the Unforgiving Arms of God. It was a ridiculously heavy record consisting of six tracks, of which Necessary Death was the most stunning to me personally. From then onwards, I was hoping for a longplayer, which has finally arrived and it’s the perfect sondtrack for the end of the world.
Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face is the band’s first full length-release and it was produced by Will Putney who has mixed and mastered records by the likes of Knocked Loose and Vein. It has a running-time of around 33 minutes and feels like a journey to hell. The different influences by the band members are blatant and come together in a heavy record with elements of hardcore, mathcore and even grindcore among others. In this review, you will see if it’s worth buying or not.
A Trip to Hell
If you know Brendan Murphy’s band Counterparts, you probably know his poetic writing style, which often revolves around suicide, death and self-loathing but also touches on how to overcome these things. The lyrics on this record sound a bit like Counterparts on steroids. Not only do they touch on suicide and longing for death, but alongside the music, they create an immensely dark atmosphere that seems apocalyptic at times. However, it does not get cringy, as it does with some deathcore bands, despite this record having some hints of deathcore in it but I will talk about that later.
The opening track Covet Not is an explosive entry point to this album. While Brendan mainly uses his mids in Counterparts, he uses more of his gutteral vocal range in this side-project. A viscous breakdown is followed by a pounding blast beat, which later makes room for several other breakdowns that all sound really angry. This song is a great beginning and reminds me a lot of the aforementioned ‘Necessary Death’. The lyrics match the aggressive sound of the music and establish a dark atmosphere: ‘Dragged through a forest of blunt blades praying for my skull to catch on sharpened leaves’ […] ‘Burn my world away… I am one with rotting flesh’. All of these lines are much darker than in counterparts songs, yet they share the same poetic tone.
The second track named after the word Pariah, which describes an outcast in the Indian caste system, continues these dark themes. It starts with a heavy intro and the Brendan’s lows and the instrumentals hit you straight in the face. From the bridge onwards, things escalate continuously, as a breakdown is followed by melodic parts similar to Counterparts. They serve as a buildup for another nasty breakdown, which is the climax of this track.
Absence begins with an atmospheric intro followed by a blast beat and deathcore-ish guitar riffs. During the first verse, this transitions into more of a (melodic) hardcore beat. This song highlights the dynamic sound of this band. They transition between various beats throughout individual songs and these changes highlight the respective beats nicely. The hardcore section of this song is followed by a slower pre-breakdown perfect for side to side dancing in a live setting. The song then culminates in a breakdown with guest vocals by Pete Morcey. It already sounds gnarly enough as it is but SUPRISE! when you think it ends, it only gets slower and heavier. This is one of my favourite tracks.
The fourth track is called The Reach of Ressurrection. After a quiet intro with a sample, a hardcore beat kicks in and transitions into a melodic pre-breakdown, similar to Counterparts. The breakdown itself resembles Counterparts too but it is not just a cheap copy of the band. This track has a nice and diverse structure, which applies to the majority of this album. Additionally, one of my favourite quotes of this record stems from it: ‘A coffin frozen shut buried just below the surface yet nowhere near the reach of resurrection. Unthawed remains clawing at false halos as an exit from the pain’. These lines describe utter desperation in a tangible way, reminiscent of a horror film.
Because of the samples that are frequently played at the beginnings or ends of songs, the record maintains a structure despite the frequent tempo changes. Additionally, the samples enhance the already apocalyptic atmosphere and create some eery vibes. It feels like they tell a story over the course of this long player, one of mental illness and suffering, perfectly matching the mood of this LP. The voices in the samples are hard to understand at times but they address some sort of therapy sessions and narrate of the therapy over the course of the album.
Fear For Me Now kicks off as a grindcore song, transitioning into upbeat hardcore during the first verse and progresseing towards yet another breakdown. Throughout this track, there are nice alternations between blastbeats and breakdowns contrasting each other nicely and making the entire song feel much heavier. The final lines ‘“Are you there? You’re sick, you need to come home.”’ are apparently based on a call between vocalist Brendan and his mother in which he told her that he wants to die. This adds a whole new level of discomfort to this song.
Song no. 6 is called Hesitation Wounds and begins with a short and silent intro. The instrumentals and vocals come crashing in slowly. The speed and atmopshere change and a good portion of the song feels like a pre-breakdown, which is a positive thing. There is a constant buildup and you know that something is about to happen. The tension rises until there is a short sample erupting into the anticipated breakdown hammering into your ear drums. Finally, it ends with an etherial, somewhat graceful outro consisting of atmopsheric drums and ambient effects. This is a nice, unexpected touch and it creates a strong contrast to the rest of this piece while still feeling appropriate.
Captive To My Curse is a short beast of song with strong mathcore vibes similar to Vein. Despite being one of the shorter tracks with only 1 min 48 seconds, there is more depth to this song’s structure than to most songs in the hardcore scene. As in earlier songs, there are some nice transitions between blast beats, pre-breakdowns and breakdowns and my only gripe is that this song is too short. It kind of feels like it could have been one of the best songs of this album, if it had not been cut off.
Evening Arms is interesting. Initially, it felt a bit less lively than the preceding tracks. However, at one point the bass gets to shine for a moment. The obligatory breakdown starts off slowly but the drums accellerate continuously until they transition to a blast beat. – I like it. Another gloomy sample serves as the transition to the next tune.
Track 9 is called An Apparition. Upbeat drums and blast beats take turns and slow down for a heavier section, which again takes turns with blast beats. Finally, the aforementioned breakdown kicks in again for the outro. It is a solid track but it did not stick out to me between the rest of the songs, which are all solid.
The arguably weakest song on the album is number 10, Every Empty Vein, an upbeat track that again showcases the band’s dynamic. To me, it felt a bit week in comparison with the earlier tracks and it was the shortest one by far, since it is only 1 min 44 seconds long and ends with a sample. Especially during my first listen, I felt a bit bored at this point to be honest. Yes, all songs are dynamic but because of that, those on the second half felt a bit weaker to me than the first four. Because all tracks are dynamic, some just do not stick out as much and at this point it stuck out to me. During my subsequent listens, I liked this one better but it is still not my favourite on this record. Despite that, it is still a good song.
Fittingly, END’s debut LP ends on a highnote. In Sands of Sleep, the band slows things down and returns to the heaviness of the first few tracks. The intro is straight into one’s face and after that, things soften up a little, creating a nice tone. Brendan’s highs sound like they were recorded from a distance but it contributes to the atmosphere in this softer section. The moment of peace does not last long and it shifts to 90’s metalcore with some clean vocals from Tanner Merritt and backing vocals from Brendan. Again, there is a buildup and things escalate into the potentially heaviest song on this record. After a nice transition, the ‘breakdown of death’ hits and makes you feel like you’re descending to hell. This section has some vibes almost similar to sludge and it is slow and harrowing. During the final sample, a woman is told she cannot go home because she’s sick and again, everything seems really eery and gloomy. – A great ending to this dark record.
Final Thoughts and Evaluation:
Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face is a solid debut album. END merge hardcore and several heavier subgenres such as grindcore to create one beast of a record with a hopeless and dark atmosphere.
To me, this album is a 9/10. All songs are solid and especially the changes in pace were interesting. By transitioning from one extreme to another, from a breakdown to a blast beat and vice versa, the band highlights these elements through the immense contrast and that makes this record feel even heavier than it already is.
I honestly don’t want to know how often I used the word breakdown in this review. Despite the great amount of them on this LP, it works and does not feel like a mere collection of breakdowns. So if you’re down for that, this record is for you.
Have you already listened to this album and if so, how did you like it? Feel free to tell me in the comments. As always thanks for reading.
Until next time.
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