Album: Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face
Have you ever been completely boggled by seeing someone you know—maybe even know intimately—but in a totally different context from their norm? An example: one time I was at the gym and an employee at a tattoo parlour I frequent came up to me and started talking about trivial stuff—the weather, music, so on—and I had no idea who it was, even in spite of spending probably upwards of 30 hours in the same room as this guy. It wasn’t until much later I had a l’esprit d’escalier-type epiphany. And I felt, frankly, fucking stupid.
Thinking back to 2017, shortly after listening to END’s debut release, The Unforgiving Arms of God, I had the same moment when I read who exactly END was. Featuring members of Counterparts, Shai Hulud, Reign Supreme, Misery Signals and Fit for An Autopsy (among more, I’m sure I’m forgetting one or two), END are probably the closest thing to a supergroup metalcore (or hardcore, or however you choose to label them) has, and their collective expertise absolutely shines through on Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face. The band’s debut full length release, Splinters is the better part of an hour of raw, ruthless metalcore laden with visceral riffs and immolating, sludgy heaviness. A churning engine running on a smorgasbord of influences from grind, hardcore, metalcore and more, END have finally delivered the record fans have been waiting nearly three years for—and man, it was worth the wait.
For those of you uninitiated, END crafts their backbone from raw, gritty metalcore and infuses elements of grind, hardcore and uncategorized chaotic dissonance to create a frenzied, depraved and devastating spectacle of heavy music. Looking at the band’s members, musical expertise is a given based on their other (or past) endeavors—however, END (specifically, Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face) don’t really sound like any of those. Percussionist Billy Rymer is ruthless, a human embodiment of vitriol channeled into an amalgamation of blast beats, dizzying fills and frantic footwork. “Covet Not,” alongside “Pariah” prove that in the first two tracks alone, however “Evening Arms” and “Every Empty Vein” are other excellent examples of his absurd drumming. “Sands of Sleep” sees Rymer taking on a more mellow role behind the skins, working brilliantly with bassist Jay Pepito to create a strong, rumbling foundation for the melancholic, ethereal nature of the track, Pepito also shines early in the record, as “Covet Not” ears his bass rumbling boldly, keeping up with Rymer’s ravenous candor. END’s dynamic, however, is as impressive as their energy, with “Pariah” shining as an immaculate example of the band’s ability to use breakdowns sparingly and effectively. Here, guitarists Will Putney and Gregory Thomas are unstoppable, toggling between razor-sharp leads and ruthless chugs. “Fear for Me Now” and “Hesitation Wounds” are more examples of the duo’s ability to expertly express all things heavy. Meanwhile, “Sands of Sleep” remains a more atmospheric conclusion to the record’s otherwise break-neck pace. Here, Putney and Thomas add strong elements of melo-death in to their dynamic—without sacrificing the punch prevalent elsewhere in Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face. Instrumentally, END create a record that hits hard and doesn’t stop hitting, taking the intensity of the Unforgiving Arms of God and expound upon it tenfold.
Atop the carnal, violent instrumentation that defines Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face roar the vocals of frontman Brendan Murphy—best known for his work in Canadian metalcore act Counterparts. Lyrically, Murphy’s writing with END strikes similar, sullen tones of his work with Counterparts, with many of the songs dealing with internal turmoil, self-loathing and hopelessness. It’s his delivery, however, that would fool an otherwise unknowing listener into thinking it was a totally different vocalist. Contrasting shrill yells against grisly mid-to-low range roars, Murphy’s voice on Splinters is different than any effort we’ve seen from Murphy in the past, in that his same poetic candor strikes balance with a more primitive, go-for-the-throat range and delivery. Take “Pariah,” or “The Reach of Resurrection”—where Murphy is at his most aggressive—or “Hesitation Wounds” where Murphy’s ruthless, raw vocal approach collides head-on with the unfiltered intimacy of his more emotional lyricism. Murphy’s dialectic culminates in “Sands of Sleep,” where eerie singing weaves in and out of Murphy’s harshly shouted verses. Murphy’s performance is jaw-dropping not only because he’s managed to branch out from the incredible success that is Counterparts and make something equally as impressive, but because his vocal effort and lyricism is the perfect dreary, gloomy and primal complement to END’s crushing instrumentation.
END’s Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face is 30+ minutes of pure fury, with splashes of grind, skramz, hardcore and melodic death metal all blending beautifully into a figurative stew (a meaty one, at that) of destructive metalcore. Violent, carnal and primitive, END lash out with lacerating leads, gruesome breakdowns and dismal atmosphere that comes together to give 2020 one of its finest and most diverse, well-rounded metalcore records yet.
For Fans Of: Misery Signals, WristMeetsRazor, Seeker, Counterparts
By: Connor Welsh