Review Summary: Change for the wrong reasons.
Mainstream society has high expectations and when they are not meet, it's not easy for many to cope. Unconventional thinking is usually met with harsh criticism and rebuttal. Cultural, social, and musical issues remain because society is so resistant to change. Even those that are supposed to be on the same side of the fight frequently can't see past the stigma of the masses. Many African Americans didn't agree with Martin Luther King Jr's peaceful approach to civil activism, many woman didn't believe in Elizabeth Cady Stanton's suffrage movement, and even the own members of the The End didn't believe in their own, unique style of music that they once played - they succumb to the pressures to change their sound to appeal to a larger volume of listeners and paid the price.
To start, The End's debut release, Transfer Trachea Reverberations From Point: False Omniscient
, even though it had a terrible name had a wonderful mathy-metallic sound. The band had a sound of their own, with a delicate balance of aggression, melody, and weirdness that made for an interesting listen. The jazz-influenced instrumental breaks and flamboyant percussion were original, short of only subtle differences from The Dillinger Escape Plan
, who quickly evolved their sound on Miss Machine
, leaving The End as one of the few flourishing bands with hardcore vocals, a quality dual mathy-guitar attack, and jazz influence. This obviously wasn't a good enough starting point though since The End would go on to give a lackluster effort with their first full-length Within Dividia
that suffered from forced brutality and repetitive riffing. Then in February 2007 Relapse records released Elementary
, which marked an even more significant transformation of their original sound, a hardly bearable one.
The instrumentation on Elementary gives flashes of its former self, but its degradation is inexcusable. Some of the riffs here aren't far removed from something you'd here on a Nickelback
album, a few up the ante somewhat but largely the dual-guitar attack is uninspiring. The alternative rock riffs and simple chord progressions show nothing of this band's potential and scream of wanted acceptance. The only audible bass tone in most of the album is the slight percussive sound of the picking, otherwise it goes largely unnoticed. The bass lines are ridiculously simple and pale in comparison to some of the interesting and fast-paced grooves found in Transfer Trachea
rhythm section in general is ironically and achingly just that, when the band is in pop-song mode (which is just one of its several musical identities), the rhythm section hides behind slow and droning guitar chords and a supposed varied vocal attack. When the percussion picks up the pace or actually performs a fill it just contributes to the mess and the band's identity crisis. Blast beats are sent off course by clean vocals, and challenging beats are met with generic breakdowns to the point where the band only sounds obnoxious rather than varied or diverse.
As much as I would like to appreciate the improved lyrical content of Aaron Wolfe's vocals their delivery within the band's disorder is their downfall. A mixture of clean, harsh, and down-tuned vocals only serves to enhance the band's attempted appeal to the mainstream (as if down-mixing vocals in the studio really make a more "eerie" sound). High-pitched vocals followed by brutal screams are only reminiscent of the top band on the scene rather than giving some larger sense of progression. The theme is that even if one aspect of the band's sound is attempting to be progressive, the end result can still be lackluster, and in this case it is.
As hard as I attempt to find the band doing anything right, I'm quickly reminded of how much momentum is lost while looking at the album as a whole cohesive unit. The closing track "And Always..." features a long acoustic intro that does great next to Mr. Wolfe's clean and airy vocals but this track next to the blast beats and death metal rip-off riffing in the opening of "Animals" seems horridly out of place. In the song "In Distress" there is actually more than a hint of bass and the rhythms are interesting and challenging, but yet when I relive the "poppy" opener "Dangerous" that relies heavily on production gimmicks and Tool
worship I once again realize that these tracks on the same album have no grander meaning together. In other words, if you're looking for progressive elements in this supposed "progressive metal" album you're bound to be disappointed. Any progressive elements are forced, poorly executed, or conflicted with metalcore noise to the point where they serve no purpose to enhancing the band's sound.
It's a shame that a band had so much going for them had to lose sight of their original and innovative ideas. It's very possible that guitarist Andrew Hercules had realized The End's loss of direction when he surprisingly left the band in October 2007 just ahead of several major tour dates with Between the Buried and Me
. The band basically hasn't been heard of since, and some of the members have dedicated themselves to side projects instead. I wish the band the best in reforming and attempting to write new and original material someday, but it's very likely that The End may just be another example of a band selling out and suffering instead of gaining recognition. It's a shame that what may very well be their final work is so far from legendary.