Review Summary: If Mastodon and Gojira had a tightly written and skillfully produced punk-baby. This album packs a punch and is over before you know it.
I’m going, to be honest, when I first started looking into The Erkonauts I did not know what to expect from them. I see that they have just above 2K monthly listeners on Spotify and they have been around for as much as their third album, yet I have never heard their name before. And if you are familiar with the kind of music that is abundant in the metal underground scene a lot of the albums you will find are not pretty. However, I am very pleased to consider I Want It to End by The Erkonauts an aberration to that stereotype.
This album blends styles from many different sub-genres of metal as there are songs that have elements of sludge, groove, thrash, and even alternative metal. Additionally, these are combined with the fast rhythm and aggression of punk which, in this case, results in an album that is both tight and straightforward while still leaving a lasting impact on the listener.
When listening to this album for the first time, the first thing that sprung out and surprised me is how well this album is produced; in fact, for a band this underground, it’s immaculate. Which is a weird thing to say for a band with such strong sludge elements, which makes me want to clarify, that this band is able to walk a thin line between poppy and bouncy, and compressed and atmospheric. In my opinion, they pull off this tight rope finely which makes the album stand out in that respect.
Moving on to its songwriting style, this album is progressive but choppy. The average song length on this album is about 4 minutes and 15 seconds, which is fairly short for a progressive metal album. This could work towards the band’s advantage as they do not overstay their welcome and having 9 shorter songs will make the album more accessible for a wider audience. What you can expect to find with the compositions of each of these songs are memorable melodies, energetic instrumental interludes, and honestly great overall instrumental harmony. As much as each instrument gets its time in the spotlight in this album, I must say, the drums in this album are what stand out the most as they do a great job at guiding the rhythm of each song. My favorite song on the album is “Losing is the First Step” which starts with a lone jazzy bass solo that is quickly stampeded by a massive and crunchy drum line that has a ton of speed and power. The song then transitions into a groovy synergy with the guitars, then into the main chorus which is reminiscent of something a 2000s alt-metal band except with tighter musicianship.
This album is not just filled with aggressive tracks. One way this album shines is that it can provide sections that fall all over the spectrum of harsh and soft, heavy and light, which is something that progressive metal does the best. It’s impressive how much emotion and atmosphere the band can create on songs such as “It Could Be over Soon” or “Caravaggio” without overstepping their boundaries and becoming overly cheesy or campy. And the band can skillfully transition from a ballad to a very heavy song. Now that I think about it, the album’s most aggressive songs are proceeded by their ballads, which show the band can transition in tempo and tone in a way that is palatable.
With all this positive feedback, one may wonder why I did not give it a higher score than I did; this is due to a few reasons. One, though the band can create their own sound in the progressive metal community, they still wear their influences on their sleeve. Many songs on this album are very eerily Mastodon sounding in a way that is more than uncanny, combined with all their other influences from other bands, it is easy to tell where their sound came from, which may be indicative of lacking original ideas and innovation. Another reason is that this is being judged in the context of competing with albums from other progressive metal bands, rather than metal bands in general; there is stark competition in this community, especially in the areas of innovation and originality. When I think of an 8, 9, or 10 out of 10 progressive metal album, I think of one that is not just original but also that creates a sense of iconic essence which I do not think this album has. I Want it to End is not magnum opus material but I’m not sure it is meant to be.
Where this album exceeds in is writing catchy and atmospheric songs without overstaying its welcome, but it is not an album that is changing the meta of progressive metal. The way this album is skillfully produced makes me think that this band could easily have 20-50K monthly listeners if they got more publicity. I do think that this is an album that can appeal to a plethora of people, not exclusively prog nerds like myself, which is ultimately one of its strengths and one of its weaknesses.