REVIEW: Currents – The Way it Ends [2020]

Artist: Currents

Album: The Way It Ends

            A unique aspect of the human psyche is the inherent fascination with endings. Even during the blissful opening months of a growing relationship, the notion of an ending often lingers somewhere in the corners of one’s mind. From the age where we’re able to understand the irreversible nature death, we contemplate what death—perhaps the “greatest” ending—is like. What happens after? Does it hurt? Where do we go? This fascination with endings and the new beginnings they may or may not bring is a dialectic of sorts—a clashing between high-strung nervous energy and melancholy complacency fettered with acceptance. Standing upon the precipice of the next step along their immense career, Connecticut crushers in Currents embody this dialectic on The Way It Ends, a record that sees the band take a step away from their frenzied, technical and aggressive roots towards a more balance, melodic and introspective brand of metalcore. Equal parts catchy, punchy, heavy and atmospheric, The Way It Ends sees Currents changing it up without sacrificing the core elements of their sound, truly bringing about an end to some elements of their dynamic and opening doors into other, previously unexplored realms of metalcore.

            Much of Currents’ well-deserved notoriety blooms from the intense and technical yet groovy and catchy style of metalcore the band have spent the better part of a decade perfecting. Where the band’s 2019 EP—and debut full length The Place I Feel Safest before that—saw the band taking on a much more aggressive demeanor with their instrumentation, The Way it Ends eases up on that trend. Now, before that statement gets construed as “Currents has gone soft,” there is still plenty of that bouncy, aggressive side to be had—abundant in the percussion from Matt Young. Young’s drumming on the record’s heavier cuts “Poverty of Self” and “Second Skin” sees him going for the throat, using quick fills and fast feet to set a furious foundation for Currents’ other instrumentalists. Meanwhile, a great number of the other songs—“Kill the Ache” and “Let Me Leave” especially—see Young’s percussion taking a more lax approach while bassist Christian Pulgarin adds weight and heft to the otherwise ethereal cuts. These songs see Currents as we really haven’t seen them before, with Young and Pulgarin providing a mellow, melodic groundwork for guitarists Ryan Castaldi and Chris Wiseman to work atop. Those familiar with the duo—especially Wiseman through his prior works in Currents and his work in Shadow of Intent—are aware of how relentless and ruthless their writing can be; The Way It Ends marks a departure from that constant, intense barrage of furious fretwork. Many songs—“Kill the Ache” for example—see more moderate guitar elements than heard from the duo before, focusing on atmosphere and ambience over aggression. Then, there are those songs from The Way It Ends that balance the aggression from “Poverty of Self” with the more melodic workings of “Let Me Leave.” “Monsters” and album closer “Better Days” are shining examples of Currents doing what they do best—as they also stand to be the record’s strongest cuts. “Monsters” is a dynamic powerhouse, with Castaldi and Wiseman working to create mesmerizing riffs that build into a raunchy, punishing breakdown. “Better Days” feels like it would have fit The Place I Feel Safest as well as it fits The Way It Ends, with everything firing in unison to create a masterful metalcore cut. This dynamic—between a newfound passion for the melodic melancholy and punchy aggression—does brilliantly for Currents’ instrumentation and also carries over excellently into the records’ vocal elements.

            Relative newcomer to Currents, vocalist Brian Wille, has been met with immense critical acclaim. Absolutely shining on the more aggressive end of Currents’ metalcore stylings on The Place I Feel Safest and I Let the Devil In, The Way it Ends sees Wille following suit with Currents’ instrumental direction, maintaining a degree of that sharp, aggressive edge but largely moving towards incorporating more singing into the mix. This is evident through the record’s middle stretch, with sister songs “Kill the Ache” and “Let Me Leave,” two tracks which feature hardly any screaming. Other songs—“Origin,” “Monsters” and “How I Fall Apart”—are similar, using screamed segments as sparsely as their aggressive musical counterparts. Where this might seem like bad news for someone reading this while thinking fondly of the bone-busting cuts from Currents’ discography, the truth is that these more balanced, moody and melodic songs where Wille seamlessly toggles between soaring choruses and scathing verses feel the most natural on the entire record. Wille’s vocal dynamism—and lyrical proficiency—are nothing short of top notch throughout the record, and while we don’t get songs like “Apnea” or “Into Despair,” songs like “Monsters” or “Split” still stand as some of the best in the band’s exhaustive discography.

            On paper, the Currents that brings us The Way it Ends doesn’t sound like a hugely different one that we’ve been enjoying for the past five years. That’s partially true—it’s definitely still Currents—but with a record where at least five of the songs feature largely singing and more atmospheric, melodic instrumentation, The Way It Ends is absolutely a stylistic departure from the band’s prior works. The result? Many of the songs feel someone homogenous—especially the third quarter of the record, where “Split,” “Origin” and “Second Skin” all kind of blend together; what’s more is that the record’s heavier cuts (“A Flag to Wave,” “Poverty of Self”) feel somewhat forced and empty in comparison with “Monsters,” “Better Days” and “Kill the Ache,” which are among the band’s best songs to date. Currents tried something different, and to great success for the most part—and while The Way it Ends might be the band’s most underwhelming release to date, it features some of their all-time best cuts, and still holds up outstandingly within and regardless of their immense discography.


For Fans Of: Erra, Invent, Animate, Silent Planet, Oceans Ate Alaska

By: Connor Welsh