Tuesday, August 2, 2011

End - End (2002)

Sure, they might have chosen the most minimalist moniker possible, but I rather admire the Greek End's logo, with its 3 letter symmetry and containment of a mountainous landscape and moon. As for the music itself, it rises and swells between primal black metal landscape and periods of gray, ambient calm that certainly live up to the name. End is also another of those myriad endorsements throughout the 21st century that Hellenic black metal was rapidly losing its distinct luster, with many new artists adopting the newsprint aesthetics that were originated via Burzum and Darkthrone in the early 90s. No coincidence then that End is stylistically redolent of these Norse acts, but not so much that this debut feels entirely derivative.

For one, the ambient sequences really set it apart, like the yawning and subliminal whispers that haunt the intro "Sick", gradually folded into freakish, warped organs and rising, distorted tide. The bloated, nearly 11 minute epic "Nails and Forests" opens with a 4 minute sequence of gray, scoured wind samples and simple acoustic passages that inevitably pick up in intensity. Finale "Pessimism" is almost martial in its architecture, with brooding swells of synthesizer affixed to sparse acoustic guitars, and strangely enough my favorite piece on the album. When it comes to the metallic elements, though, the band have a much more straightforward aesthetic, ranging from tremolo picking and standard Norse blast-work to slower grooves reminiscent of Celtic Frost, Hellhammer and Darkthrone in their respective heydays. "Come Blackness Feed Me" and the surging stretches of "Nails and Forest" are the better examples of the former, while "Humanitarianism" sulks about the slower end of the spectrum. The vocals are rather painfully average, repressed snarls, but they at least suffice.

The production of the album is incredibly earthen, desolate and organic, which suits well the band's bleak natural aesthetics in both lyrics and cover imagery (the cover being not more than a smoky gray background with their logo front and center). Guitar tone is muddled and lo-fi, no more or less than what most one-man bedroom black artists produce through 4-tracks or their own home studio recordings. But where this might be a weakness for some artists, it serves End with an authentic vigor that almost overcomes its lack of strong riffing. Almost, but not enough. I counted perhaps 2-3 guitar passages on the entire album (excluding the acoustics) that caught any of my attention whatsoever, the rest feel rather phoned in and ineffective no matter how maudlin, glum and minimalistic these Greeks were trying to come across. I understand that the purpose here was to offer dirges of hypnotic simplicity, but I am of the mind that the more crude the composition, the more poignant and memorable the actual barebones riffs must be, and these are somewhat of a turnoff. Still, though, if you're seeking nihilism and emptiness alone in your black metal, you could probably do worse.

Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10] (the fictious reality disappears)


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