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This album is (probably) not for you
Blastbeats and Mosh Parts and Panic Chords, oh my! END returns with their highly anticipated second LP
By Shaye Frenkel
Evil, suffocating, unrelenting
While writing this review, I felt conflicted as to how I could make the case for a piece of art that isn’t really meant to be accessible. To put it simply, END is a band that doesn’t beg to be listened to. You can’t sing along to their songs, hum guitar riffs, or play the music out loud for others to enjoy. They don’t care if you brave one of their live shows unless that’s the sorta thing you fancy. The last time I saw them, I ended up leaving their set with a massive welt on my head and my ear protection missing. And yet, I already had tickets to see them again in November.
I’ve been a fan of END’s recorded material ever since hearing their debut EP, From the Unforgiving Arms of God back in 2017. Their terrifying mix of death metal, grind, hardcore punk, and sparse industrial moments has been honed, boiled down, and expanded upon throughout the years, becoming arguably even less accessible. So, all things considered, how do I write about their new album in a way that makes it sound remotely appealing to someone who has no interest in hearing it?
The Sin of Human Frailty is a mean, unrelenting album. Clocking in at barely thirty minutes, it manages to establish a haunting atmosphere: buzzsaw guitars drill into the listener’s skull, coupled with ear-piercing vocals meant solely to unsettle, and a rhythm section that is so volatile you would be forgiven for appreciating the rare spaces between songs in which your mind can rest peacefully before being thrust into the line of fire yet again. Fast parts and slow parts, frantic tempo changes and rapid time signature shifts assault the listener’s ears. Yet, these parts don’t linger too long unless they’re meant to unsettle and create tension. Build-ups lead to pummeling beatdowns, a sonic onslaught designed with nothing else in mind than instilling violence. This is music meant to be felt as much as it is heard. Invite the music into your bones. Let it reverberate deep within.
The album hardly lets up for its entire runtime; a cacophony of chaotic, atonal sounds flood the listener’s ears nonstop. The only breaks from the horror are when eerie atmospheric guitar or synths come in, granting a brief reprieve before trudging onwards like a mangled freight train, spewing bile and brimstone from every orifice. The lyrics are menacing too, containing themes of human suffering, being abandoned by an uncaring god, and the cruel loss of loved ones, ripped from the earth before their time. These themes dig their way under one’s skin, burrowing down and never letting go, especially in tandem with the shrieking vocals that accompany them.
In contrast to their previous full-length offering, Splinters From an Ever-Changing Face, END has added some industrial elements to their already uncompromising sound. This comes in the form of harsh electronic drums, wretched synth samples, and overall layered textures. Throughout the course of ten songs, each band member is firing on all cylinders, somehow concocting a noxious brew even more abrasive than thought possible by fans of their old work. And despite how unappealing this may sound, especially to someone unfamiliar with the world of extreme metal, there’s something about it that makes you want to keep coming back.
It's a bit of a cliche in the metal world that when a band gets big, they clean up their sound and attempt to appeal to a wider audience. But END has done nothing of the sort. They’re not looking to attract new fans with this release. You either buy into what they’re selling or you hurriedly leave the store with your tail between your legs. If you check this album out and don’t like it, that’s ok. Give it a try and who knows, maybe it'll click, although a more apt description would be akin to screws rattling loose in your head until the chaos begins to make sense. There is an odd sense of catharsis contained between the downtuned chugs and hellish vocals. We live in troubling times, so perhaps The Sin of Human Frailty is a fitting soundtrack to the end days: pun fully intended.