Splinters From An Ever-Changing Face

Written by: AP on 17/01/2021 18:19:27

I have always felt ambivalent in regard to supergroups, as these tend to allow too many ideas to exist in parallel, resulting in albums that sound professional but lack a clear red thread. And even when that is not the case, the fact that the musicians involved obviously prioritise their day jobs, one often has to wait for a long time for a new release from such a group, which has the effect of fragmenting the continuity, and by extension the coherence of their output. END, however, seems to have addressed this issue with music that has its own, unique personality rather than sounding like a sum of the band’s parts, though it remains to be seen how much effort the two main brains behind the project — Counterparts vocalist Brendan Murphy and the renowned producer and Fit for an Autopsy guitarist Will Putney — will be able to dedicate to it in the imminent post-lockdown world. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and paint the devil on the wall, because at least on the basis of this début album from END, “Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face”, the five musicians (the rest of whom are bassist Jay Pepito of Reign Supreme, the former Shai Hulud guitarist Greg Thomas, and the former Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Billy Rymer) seem to be taking their side gig very seriously.

Given the personnel involved, it should not be too difficult to imagine what END might sound like, and yet as soon as the opening track “Covet Not” is unleashed, you will probably have to admit that you were not expecting something quite so grinding and punishing. Murphy sounds absolutely ferocious here, revealing an aspect of his voice that fans of Counterparts are yet to be acquainted with, a more extreme style of growling typically found in deathgrind, and with clean vocals shunned completely. And although the rest of the musicians are not exactly strangers to heavy music either, it feels like every one of them as kicked it up a notch for this project with a shared goal of creating some astonishingly brutal tracks. If one were to compare the music of END to other artists, then the likes of Cult Leader and Full of Hell would not be far off — both in terms of how grim and feral it sounds, and how much variety it packs. “Pariah” (one of the highlights), for instance, slows things down to a primitive stomp, and delivers one of the most unhinged moments on the record as horror chords slice through the final breakdown and Murphy spits out the refrain: “Pariah! Your fucking end!” Immediately in its wake, the five musicians then switch gears again for “Absence”, which hybridises black metal and crust punk, with hammering blastbeats and atmospheric tremolo guitars seamlessly morphing into a d-beat and the sort of urgent riffage Discharge is renowned for. For the metalcore loyalists, it even features a hard-to-spot cameo from 100 Demons vocalist Pete Morcey.

In the space of just three songs, END have thus managed to differentiate themselves as anything but a dime-a-dozen grindcore act, and the rest of the album continues on the same terms, finding new ways to calibrate the balance between atmosphere and intensity without sacrificing the sense of pent-up anxiety and frustration that permeates the music. One feels it in cacophonies like “Fear for Me Now” and “Captive to My Curse” in which Murphy & co. just seem to want to get some s**t off their chests without worrying about aesthetics, but also in the more ‘tempered’ cuts such as the standout “Hesitation Wounds”, which incorporates archival audio samples and eerie synth chimes into its syncopated groove. Every track on “Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face” delivers pissed off sensibilities galore, yet the music never feels contrived or melodramatic in any way — not even the closing piece “Sands of Sleep”, which has a heavy doom influence and is the only song on the album to feature clean singing by guest vocalist Tanner Merritt of O’Brother. There is no denying it is the most aberrant track on the album, taking on a moodier and less full-on character, but this is exactly what one needs for winding down after the breathless battering administered by the first 27 minutes, not to mention its contribution to the diversity of the record overall.

There were a number of supergroups that suddenly found the time to work on new music last year as touring ground to a halt, but in honesty, most of the releases that came from these bands were little more than vanity projects relying on individual performances rather than playing like coherent albums. Not so with END, who put together not only the best supergroup album, but one of the best albums of 2020 in general, one that is certain to make the five musicians consider raising the priority END enjoys in each of their calendars. Judging on the basis of “Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face”, their minds are on the same wavelength, and in my subjective opinion, the result is far more interesting than anything their other bands recent output. All that generic metalcore and deathcore and hardcore needs to be scrapped in favour of blending it all and distilling it into END instead. A man is allowed to dream, at least!


Download: Pariah, Absence, Hesitation Wounds, Sands of Sleep
For the fans of: Cult Leader, Full of Hell, Leeched, Varials, Year of the Knife
Listen: Facebook

Release date 05.06.2020
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