Review Summary: Little known Canadian quintet come out of nowhere and blow reviewers mind with fantastically complex and diverse album.
A review is all about honesty, so I suppose I should disclaim from the get-go: I had never actually heard of Canadian band The End before being recommended this record, apparently their third. As a result of this, I can not comment on how the band have changed from their previous records, if at all. What I can tell you, however, is that this is far and away one of the most impressive records of 2007 in the heavier side of music. Elementary is a varied, progressive, intense and very powerful record- all the things a great heavy rock/metal album should be.
The ten-track opus wastes no time initially, kicking right into “Dangerous”. This track is a good introduction to what you’re going to hear throughout the album. It features complex arrangements, unconventional time signatures, chugging bass lines, pounding drums, big-sounding and crunchy guitar and just one of the sides of vocalist Aaron Wolff. This particular side of his vocals is what can be called his “hardcore” side. A raw and aggressive force comes through every time he bellows and shouts his way through another verse.
The album proceeds to weave through somewhat of a musical journey, with the band weaving their way through rock, metal, hardcore, post-hardcore, prog rock and the genre they supposedly belong to, “math-core”.
“Elementary” culminates in true style; ironically, on the most stripped back song on the whole album. “And Always…” is, quite simply, a triumph- swaying, poetic and beautifully arranged. Everything just seems to work in this song, from Wolff’s beautiful harmonies to the subtle string and keyboard parts. It works so well, you hardly notice it is the longest song on the whole record at over nine minutes. An exceptional way to end a truly exceptional record.
One thing that should definitely be noted about this record is that there is little to no middle ground- the band are either gritty, raw and aggressive or emotional and pensive. There are no mediocre moments here; and your attention will only rarely wander, if at all.
The band, as a whole, are tight and skilled musicians, and they collectively compliment each other quite well. Aaron Wolff’s diversity as a vocalist is remarkable: take, for example, a song like “The Never Ever Aftermath”, one of the best tracks by a mile, which sounds like a Deftones song if Geoff Rickley or Adam Lazzara took over vocal duties. Put this in contrast with a song like “Awake"”, which thrives on complexity and straight-out raw anger, taking Wolff’s howl and roar to its most intense on the record. It’s hard to believe the same guy snarling “Your flesh is ripe for the picking” like Hannibal Lecter and the Cookie Monster’s bastard child on one track is crooning away on lines like “If the fuses have been lit, let’s get it over with/I can’t take another false alarm” (possibly a metaphor for the state of the planet") on the very next one.
Guitarists Steve Watson and Andrew Hercules are at the forefront in creating the sound scapes of the songs, going between the most urgent and immediate of wails and noises to intimate, stripped back ambience, showing real talent in both areas (although admittedly the chugging metalcore drop-d rhythm guitar can occasionally grate).
Elsewhere, drummer Anthony Salajko brings some exceptional fills and rolls to the table (notably on “Awake"”) - the mix of the record gives the kick and cymbals a really top quality sound (the combination of being both a bit of an audiophile and a drummer may have made me pick this tidbit up). Even bassist Sean Dooley has his moments, despite the bass unfortunately blending with the guitar like most heavy albums released these days. This doesn’t really cause much of an issue, however (unless of course you’re a bassist- though you’re probably used to it by now); and is a very small con in contrast to a gigantic list of pros.
While “Elementary” may not achieve the success or get the attention it deserves, The End have still indeed created a top-quality, highly accessible and highly innovative LP.
It’s no stretch to say it is a very important record for its genre- whatever you would like to call it…