Thursday, September 29, 2011

End - End III (2009)

Well it turned out that the first End wasn't the end, and that the second end also wasn't the End. Six years beyond that, the End arrives once more in its third manifestation of precocious, storming Hellenic black metal. Immediately, End III trumps its predecessors with vastly superior cover art. No more a gray, empty miasma will adorn the band's face, but a hooded mystery within a gorgeous, rich black and white woodland illustration. Points there for drawing in the listener's eyes, but unfortunately, End III does not musically hold up to its elder chapters. Not because the band have somehow devolved in ability, but because the dark atmosphere and mood characterizing the sophomore is much reduced here, supplanted with some study assembly line blasting that sounds like a hundred other acts in the field.

I'm not saying that the prior album was brilliant in its balance of dark ambient pieces, dour acoustics and more aggressive surges, but there was a particular charm to it that I enjoyed. On the End III, it takes even a few tracks just to encounter something interesting. "Catastrophe" has a half-decent, discordant breakdown in the bridge, but it's largely just a straight burst of blast with angry sounding sheens of higher string axe-work and growling. "Self-Eating Mass" moves straight into another blast-beat, though admittedly it lets up in its bridge for some sparser guitars. After this, the album starts to take on more variation. "Still in Flesh" and "In the Womb of Sick" feature, slower, dissonant guitars, not unlike a Glorior Belli or a simplified Deathspell Omega. In fact, there's a lot of this post-black appeal to the album, as it's also incorporated into "Lavish Gloom" and "Megalomania". To some extent, this is a more modern and experimental effort than the previous Ends, but it's not walking on untrodden ground.

For its production alone, End III is superior to what the band have previous released, as the guitars get a good even tone and the vocals sound more piercing or cavernous as the voices shift between growls and bloodied rasps. It's competent and technically more involved than that 2002-3 period, in particular the tighter drumming and the complexity of the guitars. But in the end, it's not all that harrowing of an experience, and despite End II's crudeness, it was at least appreciably haunting. End now seem to have the skill and penetration needed to rub horns with the faster, furious acts out of Norway, Poland and France, but it's hard to remember much of the 50 minutes of dissonant, devilish dissemination on the recent End of their evolution.

Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10]

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