5. The End - Transfer Trachea Reverberations From Point: False Omniscient
It’s funny what a muse can do for a young metal band. Not only for The Dillinger Escape Plan, but also for metalcore at large, Calculating Infinity was a watershed moment, a statement that has since taken on a mind and mystique of its own. It stands apart from the rest of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s discography as both the benchmark against which virtually all technical metalcore bands are judged and as the inspiration for a wave of early ’00s bands that, regrettably, didn’t always grasp what made it work so well. For a few years, the scene was glutted with stuff like Car Bomb’s Centralia and Apiary’s Lost In Focus: albums with plenty of Dillinger-worthy chops, but no staying power whatsoever. Overlooked in the scuffle is The End’s mouthful of a debut, Transfer Trachea Reverberations From Point: False Omniscient, an album that can go toe-to-toe with Calculating Infinity and one-up it in a single, crucial area: atmosphere.
Sure, from the nightmare jazz of “Sugar-Coated Sour” straight through to the end, the album is is bug-eyed, sweaty madness personified; but it takes something just a tad more refined to conjure up and sustain Transfer Trachea’s unsettling schizophrenia from the same frenzied components. Knowing full well that the ground broken on Calculating Infinity couldn’t be broken again, The End take The Dillinger Escape Plan’s ferocious originality as a template to build on rather than as gospel to follow, and the mileage they get out of this small tweak is nothing short of remarkable. Truth be told, they even beat The Dillinger Escape Plan to their own punch three years before Miss Machine, an album which makes similar moves toward digestible songwriting. Let me emphasize that: they beat The goddamn Dillinger Escape Plan to their own punch!
Not to say that Transfer Trachea or Miss Machine are accessible albums, because The End’s debut is every bit the inscrutable metalcore edifice you’d expect, and it’s even of comparable length - twenty-two minutes, roughly on par with Calculating Infinity if you trim the fat from “Variation On A Cocktail Dress." Albums of this length tend to feel a little lean, but Transfer Trachea is one of those rare few that plays like a complete representation of its artist’s vision, which in this case is every bit as weirdly elegant as its cover illustration. Make no mistake: this is challenging stuff, and it can sound like gibberish if you aren’t devoting your full attention to it. This is what makes Transfer Trachea special. According to bassist Sean Dooley’s (slightly drunken) explanation of the album’s cumbersome title:
It was kind of a very elaborate way of saying the voice of God. Like, Transfer Trachea Reverberations, it’s like the movement of those vibrations in your throat, and then like Point False Omniscient is like kind of just our beliefs and the way people look at whatever the God entity is. It’s like the voice of God it would be, if anything, like chaotic and flowing, like abstract like the real world, so that was the idea.1
Out of the American Metalcore Project’s six new classics, The End’s debut had the best shot at becoming an actual classic, improbably snagging the award for Metal Album of the Year (!) at the Canadian Independent Music Awards in 2001. Unfortunately, it never quite took. This could be for any number of reasons, but we can attribute its relative obscurity at least in part to the sorts of tours The End wound up on following its release. While they landed bills with the likes of the The Dillinger Escape Plan, there was clearly a dearth of like-minded metal at the time, forcing The End to share stages with Poison the Well, Lamb of God, and A Life Once Lost. These are all excellent bands in their own right, but they sit uneasily alongside The End’s more experimental tendencies. Surely, in some alternate universe, The End might have toured with Drowningman, whose agile songwriting was really coming into its own around 2001 and is a great complement to The End’s, or with As The Sun Sets, who had already trimmed the insanity of Each Individual Voice is Dead in the Silence down to a spastic grind variant by this time.
Consider opener “Her (Inamorata),” which erupts into a dizzying barrage barely held in check by Tyler Semrick-Palmateer’s distinctive voice - full, guttural, characterized by a tendency to strain and squeal in a way that projects genuine emotion across The End’s pitiless canvas. The track is particularly Dillinger-esque in the way it drops in on the listener without warning, but The End throw us a pronounced, Tool-like bass presence to hang onto while the rest of the band noodles away. It’s the album’s hook and backbone, shaping the main groove of “Opalescence I” and focalizing its abstract chords and creepy electronic layers. They billow into the spiraling riffs of “Opalescence II,” a mathcore workout that gives way to “The Asphyxiation of Lisa Claire,” one of the album’s most impressive cuts. The transition from barbed-wire riffing to this song’s jangling chords would be jarring even for comparable bands, but The End’s knack for atmospheric chaos makes it utterly natural. Those clean chords haunt the rest of the origamic “Lisa Claire,” bracing us for its distorted scales, cavernous drumwork, and a stab of phantasmagoric cleans right in the heart of the album. The track’s restlessness is even more abrasive than the opener’s, but the ambient/noise gasp of “For Man - Limited Renewal” is there to keep it from overshadowing the skronked-out “Sonnet” and closer “Entirety In Infancy,” which is just as powerful a summary of all that’s come before as “Her” is of what’s to come.
Back in Part 1.2, I made a couple of points. The first was that most of the debuts among the new classics are followed up with radical departures from the band’s initial sound. I name-checked Buried Inside specifically, but The End was also on my mind: Within Dividia ends the parallels between The End and The Dillinger Escape Plan by showing the band in the process of succumbing to the broader-appeal tendencies of the bands they toured with in the wake of Transfer Trachea’s success. You’ll find an enjoyable but familiar take on mathcore with The End’s sophomore album rather than a continuation, of what’s presented, and something else entirely on their junior. Their third album, Elementary, furthers this deterioration and, for better or worse, represents their last effort as a band.
The other point, branching off of the first, was that these disappointing follow-ups seem to be the result of the band simply not knowing where to go with the sound they innovate, and I think that’s the real issue, here. Like Calculating Infinity, The End’s debut is lightning in a bottle. The Dillinger Escape Plan powered one of the most distinguished ongoing careers in metal with it. The End were content to let it fizzle out. Various members went on to various other projects, but for a brief twenty-two minutes at the turn of the century, they showed us what a young band following its unique muse can do. This music isn’t meant to fill stadiums. Transfer Trachea is the soundtrack to a nervous breakdown, or to spiritual revelation.
Wherein Brian hilariously overanalyzes a subgenre of metal!