Review Summary: Smooth, intense.
Not every band can toe the line between eclectic melodies and raw, grinding intensity. It’s a point of intersection that doesn’t often compute, with most artists erring a little too far in either direction. Those artists should take a few notes from Endless Heights, who on just their second album seem to have the formula down pat. With Vicious Pleasure
, you get driving, sinister beats and Deftones-esque guitar work. You also hear a vocalist whose range and fringe-screams paint the picture of a volcano that is constantly on the verge of erupting. It’s a record with a lot of passion bubbling underneath the surface, and Endless Heights are masters of restraint. The result is a boisterous, mysterious atmosphere forged out of both fire and water; intense, but also incredibly smooth.
Following a brief one minute interlude, ‘You Coward’ hits you square in the gut. Searing electric riffs scorch the song’s outer fringes like an ancient treasure map, while vocalist Joel Martorana enters his lower register and threatens, “while you hold me by the throat, just know I grip you by your mind.” It’s an enthralling entrance, and quite representative of Vicious Pleasure
’s cohesive whole. Mid-tempo burners like ‘Toxic’ and ‘Shiver Down’ define the album’s core, brooding in this ominous state of tantalizing anxiety. The tight instrumental craftsmanship covers the album end-to-end, blending momentous but not necessarily complex guitar work with an impressive rhythm section, resulting in a textural cohesion that never really fades over the course of the experience. Listeners attempting to discern distinguishable hooks may point to the album’s homogeneity as an easy weakness to peg – but outside of that, additional shortcomings are sparse. This is simply a masterful palette of alternative, hardcore, and indie-rock stylings – even if the scope isn’t as expansive as what some of the band’s more experimental contemporaries may have accomplished.
Although Vicious Pleasure
sounds very much like what its title suggests – this bittersweet cross between love and hate – there are still a few breaks in its otherwise airtight makeup. One of the most rewarding moments actually comes when Endless Heights deviates from its formula on the sprawling, gorgeous ballad ‘Come a Little Closer.’ There’s less reverb, discordance, and feedback – and for the first time on the record, everything sort of breathes
. It’s a necessary exhale on what feels like forty-two minutes of the band holding its collective breath; waiting to either explode or to let out one cathartic gasp, as they do here. Martorana, typically pointed and aggressive from a lyrical perspective, even allows a glimpse of vulnerability: “there's an echo in my bones, it’s a feeling I don’t know / and I'm lost in you.” ‘Paralyse’ feels like the song’s structural sibling, but its spiritual opposite. Martorana’s voice glides effortlessly over a bare instrumental canvas like a canoe cutting through a glass-surface lake, while biting passages like “refuse and use...just use me… I don't know now, what's left to lose” reveal undertones of frustration and despair. It’s tracks like these that feel like crystalizing moments for Endless Heights – these heartfelt reflections that unveil glimpses into an otherwise enigmatic lyricist.
is a very strong showing for Endless Heights. From the straightforward hardcore/emo-rock EPs that they debuted over five years ago to their debut LP New Bloom
, there was noticeable growth and musical progression/expansion. A similar leap appears to have taken place here, as Vicious Pleasure
marks their most well-composed, instrumentally adept album that still manages to further explore the band’s melodic side. If they keep improving at this rate, it would not be surprising to discover that Endless Heights has a classic album somewhere in its future.