Artist: Shadow of the Colossus
Album: End Game
Chances are you don’t remember “day zero,” or, the day you were born. Your mother likely looks back on it fondly, saying it was the “most beautiful moment” of her life (or maybe that was the epidural talking). Your father, too, whimsically recalls it—“the proudest I’ve ever been,” he recalls (even if you didn’t make the high school football cut). From the very first second you spent on this planet, in this realm of reality and being, you’ve made your own impact on the world and the people who surround you—from the first moment of life until the last second before death, this is true. Shadow of the Colossus tells this story with their sophomore album, End Game—while at the same time, doing the same thing. Loaded with simply stunning and beautiful arrangements of instrumentation and vocal brilliance, Shadow of the Colossus have given birth to an album which will shake the realm of deathcore to its very center, and make them the proudest parents in the world in the process.
Quiet only until you had the wherewithal to gather your first breath and shout out, your early years were rambunctious. In this respect, End Game’s first track, “Beholder of Eyes,” serves as a perfect model for your first conscious years. Beginning with a subtle, deceptive note of serenity, “Beholder of Eyes” is an explosive song, which serves as an ideal package for the message of non-stop energy it conveys. It, together with “Odyssey of Curiosity” serve to paint the picture of your formative years—flooded with energy, life and frenzied curiosity, as the instrumentation ranges from crushingly heavy to contagiously catchy—especially as heard in the opening riff of “Beholder of Eyes.”
However, Shadow of the Colossus mimics the energy and frenzy of youth in more ways than one. True enough, the opening tracks tell the story of the ego’s formation and the body’s development, but it is the fretwork throughout End Game, which mirrors the unparalleled, ferocious force of life that propels the protagonist through his early years. Throughout End Game, the guitar is constantly flawless. Ranging from moments of limitless shred and furiously fretted riffing—the opening of “Insurgence” or the duration of “Deliverance” for example—to section s of dynamic, hard-hitting groove (which can be heard repeatedly in “Odyssey of Curiosity”). The technical mastery of the guitar work throughout End Game is matched only by how wonderfully it is written to mesh with the album’s flow—even as the album progresses and the protagonist nears the end of his days, there is always the same sparkle of infancy in the eyes, taking shape in the form of furious fretwork.
Oh, how the years pass. It seemed only yesterday you were crib-bound and limited to crawling—but now, now you’re in the midst of your teens, traversing the perilous waters of puberty and emotion. “Insurgence” and “Sentimental Proof” take on these tough topics, attacking them with bi-polar combinations of crushing, brooding heaviness and lighthearted, bouncy grooves—fitting for such unpredictable lyrical content. “Sentimental Proof” does this especially well, including a spine-shrinking breakdown between sections of catchy, riff-laden grooviness and lacerating, skin-flaying shred.
However, just as youth and the id found its match in End Game’s stellar fretwork, these tedious teenage years find their foil in the album’s dynamic and diverse vocal content. Simply put, Shadow of the Colossus hit every vocal range possible, and they do it perfectly. Shrill, shrieking screams to low, bellowed growls, every pitch is not just done, but nailed. Even the occasional inclusion of haunting, Deftones-esque clean vocals in “The Dawning of a New Age” and “End Game” flow perfectly with the instrumentation they are presented in, and as such, not only avoid sounding forced, but actually soothe and amaze the listener at the same time. Such diverse, yet wonderful, vocal performance is End Game’s answer to the sensation—the never-ending highs and lows—of adolescence and young adulthood.
Once you reach thirty, things aren’t so easy anymore. The constant wear-and-tear of every day life wears your fingers to the bone and threatens to turn your mind to mush. Turn around and you’re fifty—where did the years go? Where are you going? More and more, you wake up every morning surprised that your heart is still beating and that your flesh-and-blood cage insists on containing your spirit. “The Dawning of a New Age” and “Amygdale” take on the infamous mid-life crisis, which has the protagonist questioning his identity. It is on these tracks where rampaging, limitless energy in the form of shred and brutality take the backseat to a deeper and more pensive atmosphere. Melody and looming, brooding darkness work side-by-side to engulf the listener, wrapping them in this new environment and allowing them to embrace this change of pace. While this portion of the album is meant to mimic the “low points” of the protagonist’s middle years, it is far from poorly done. The doom-influence gloomy feel in the song structure and musicianship alike are nothing short of immersive and beautiful. It isn’t until “Deliverance” that the veil is lifted and Shadow of the Colossus shine bright light—and with it, energy—on the dark, gloomy surroundings of the repetitive, daunting “mid-life” period. “Deliverance” is just that—a savior in the form of technical, shred-ridden progressive death metal instrumentation which takes the listener on a journey that forces them to emerge as a new person.
Old age isn’t necessarily all that it was rumored to be. Sure, senility and telling kids to “get off the grass” has been fun, but more than before you begin to feel the wear on your body—the tugging as your still-energetic soul yearns to be free of its ragged cage. But still, the heart beats on until the very end, never faltering, refusing to cease. This is the conclusion to End Game—as heard in “The Great Divide,” the body struggles at containing the soul and spirit which it miraculously managed to keep up with all these years. It is only after the serene, but brief, respite of “The Eleventh Passage” that soul meets body for one last attack on the listener in the form of “End Game,” a track that does the album’s title justice. Every element of “End Game” is at its peak—it has spent the entire journey of life climbing its “Everest,” and this is the climax. The percussion is—as it has been—pounding and pummeling, packed with punctual, fierce fills. The fretwork is dynamic, flowing brilliantly between grotesque grooves and heaviness and stellar shred. Likewise, the vocals fire off every round in their arsenal—clean singing, highs, lows and mid-range yells are all present and accounted for.
This climactic experience of soul and body working in stellar syncope—the progression throughout life and the powerhouse that is the human heart—can be explained using Shadow of the Colossus’ percussion as a foil. Throughout the duration of End Game, the drums refuse to slow down—always beating, pounding, punching away at the listener. Much like the protagonist of End Game’s heart never stopped beating until the very end, the only thing that seems to be able to stop Shadow of the Colossus’ percussive barrage on the listener is the end of the album.
In your last seconds of life, you spend less time remembering your life than you do wondering how—or if—you will be remembered. Shadow of the Colossus shouldn’t have anything even close to this problem. End Game is an immersive tale of life and death, and, even further, is a bastion to progression and the refusal to stay stagnant or content with the sound established on their self-titled debut. Engaging from beginning to end, End Game is an epic journey of a release, which will redefine progressive deathcore—and the listener in the process.
For Fans Of: Sleep Serapis, Sleep, Slice the Cake, The Contortionist
By: Connor Welsh