END - From the Unforgiving Arms of God
“Word of mouth” doesn’t quite mean in the internet age what it used to, as the rise of social media and instant sharing, as well as the prevalence of forum sites like Reddit, have changed the mechanism by which small bands make big waves and accelerated the speed at which “up-and-coming” becomes “overexposed.” It’s too easy for a young band to show promise, garner more hype than they can handle, and buckle under the pressure to match expectations blown out of proportion before the band has even proven themselves worth the buzz in the first place, which was my first concern when END popped up on my radar.
END is a new band made of old parts--the fact that most members are in active bands, at least half of which are currently enjoying marked success, means END is a supergroup, shortening their “trial period” and adding another set of challenges they have to overcome right away. They have a fearsome lineup on paper that sees Counterparts vocalist Brendan Murphy, arguably END’s biggest name, joining forces with ex-Misery Signals guitarist Greg Thomas, current Fit For An Autopsy guitarist Will Putney, Blacklisted’s Jay Pepito on bass, and ex-Structures/Trade Wind drummer Andrew McEnaney--but we’ve seen supergroups with more star wattage fail before, so even these credentials weren’t much of a comfort. But “Chewing Glass,” the first END we heard, was: a two-and-a-half minute grenade of badass riffage and Murphy’s unrecognizable vocals, it’s an excellent introduction to END and kicked the buzz around the EP into a new gear that “Usurper” and “Necessary Death” were quick to capitalize on.
I’ve had a tenuous relationship with Counterparts in the past and didn’t put much stock in Murphy’s involvement, but he’s risen to the challenge of working alongside Misery Signals and Fit For An Autopsy alumni with a low-register vocal approach that frankly demolishes his work with Counterparts. Whatever he loses in enunciation he makes up tenfold in grit and power, inflating already massive moments like the breakdown on “Necessary Death” and the lumbering title track to bursting. As mentioned, I would never have known it was “the guy from Counterparts,” which goes equally for the rest of the band: END’s grinding, feedback-laced sound is quicker to reference first and second-wave metalcore like Zao (Liberate Te Ex Inferis and The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here spring to mind) and Deathwish alumni The Blinding Light, as well as His Hero Is Gone and Cursed, than Killswitch Engage or their melodic metal ilk. The EP traffics exclusively in dissonance and hatred, never letting up for its appropriately brief seventeen minutes--any more this early would be hubris, despite their relative leg-up on the scene--finding its fullest expression on the songs that weren’t released ahead of the EP. As rapidly as “Necessary Death” became their signature song, it’s really “Love Let Me Go” and “Survived By Nothing” that capture the band’s no-holds-barred spirit and explosive aggression, the former working itself into a froth worthy of early Converge and the latter perfecting the deconstructed breakdown The Acacia Strain have been trying to write for three or four albums now.
END has range, which is more than can be said for most supergroups of this nature, although they are a bit content to stick to this heavier-than-thou vein of metalcore. I may not have an issue with what From the Unforgiving Arms of God is, but as always with these kinds of bands, one speculates what a reprieve every now and then might enhance. Probably, it would ruin the atmosphere and derail the EP--it starts fast and heavy and just gets faster and heavier, right up until the final act of “Survive By Nothing,” keeping things dark and claustrophobic--but one wonders all the same. Maybe we’ll see some boundaries pushed on a full-length in the (hopefully near) future, but for now, END should be proud of what they’ve accomplished. We can’t say for sure until the next release whether the hype will turn on them as it has other newcomers, but having already transcended the supergroup label to deliver one of the all-around best heavy EPs of 2017, I think they’re on track for a very successful run. Keep your eye on END and what they do next.