by S. Winters
Hell is a reflection of myself branded in the skin of those I love.
END, a metalcore/hardcore supergroup based in New Jersey, burst onto the scene in 2017 with their debut EP, titled From the Unforgiving Arms of God. Fans of the band members’ other projects were impressed with the ferocity and aggression displayed on that release, and the group has amassed an independent following since then. END recently dropped their debut full-length, titled Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face, and it’s everything a fan of their earlier material could have asked for. Splinters is more structured, more outraged, and overall an evolution of END’s straightforwardly violent sound.
END’s members are experienced musicians, and their chemistry allows each of their talents to shine brightly. Guitarists Will Putney (who has produced albums for Every Time I Die, Norma Jean, The Acacia Strain, Thy Art Is Murder, and countless others) and Gregory Thomas (formerly of Misery Signals and Shai Hulud) play razor-edged hardcore riffs on Splinters, entwining haunting melodies between head-smashing chugs. Reign Supreme vocalist Jay Pepito handles bass duties on Splinters, and though he isn’t mixed loudly, he follows the guitarists expertly and gives the listener a sense of low-end security. Billy Rymer (who played drums on renowned mathcore band The Dillinger Escape Plan’s last three albums) beats his kit relentlessly, each snare hit feeling like a punch to the gut. Unlike his work with TDEP, Rymer doesn’t venture too far into the avant-garde on Splinters, and that’s exactly what the album needs. His d-beats, lightning-fast fills and thunderous blasts provide an excellent backbone for the other three instrumentalists. Altogether, the instrument-playing members of END make up a formidable and cohesive team, and their performance on Splinters is tight and inspiring.
Brendan Murphy performs vocals for END. He has also been the vocalist of Counterparts since its beginning, back in 2007. Splinters sees Murphy sporting a fearsome and blistering vocal tone, and it features some of his most poignant and personal lyrical work to date. The Counterparts singer writes Splinters’ lyrics using long, intricate sentences describing horrors in an articulate manner rarely found in metalcore. “I am my fear held in trembling hands, convulsing in the shape of a cross burned into my skull,” he yells on “Hesitation Wounds”. On “Pariah”, Murphy screams, “Hung by a white flag, watching yourself as you spin in shards of glass sticking out of every limb.” Track 3, “Absence”, finds Murphy desperately detailing Hell as it manifests within each person. His fiercely-delivered words are filled to the brim with allegory and metaphor, making Splinters an album which is as lyrically engaging as it is musically annihilating.
Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face takes the form of brutal hardcore, but its black metal and grindcore influences cannot be overlooked. This album is reminiscent of another record released earlier this year, UK trio Leeched’s To Dull the Blades of Your Abuse, which also featured blackened and grinding musical elements. Veterans of the scene know that hardcore and metalcore are genres oversaturated by nearly innumerable bands trying to play the most antagonistic music possible. END successfully distinguishes themselves from the crowd by infusing their music with black metal’s melancholy discord and grindcore’s crushing ruthlessness. Combining genres in this manner allows Splinters to cover more varied ground than a more straightforward hardcore attack would. Any fan of extreme metal will find something to love in this record.
END’s debut album Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face will undoubtedly splinter the face of anyone who dares to listen to it. Its all-star cast of musicians and its airtight production (courtesy of Will Putney) are the perfect soundtrack to a world which seems to be falling ever further towards ultimate destruction. Splinters isn’t easy to listen to – it will batter the ears and mind of a listener every which way until the very last moment of the album. But it’s a journey worth taking, especially when paying close attention to Brendan Murphy’s eloquent lyrics.
Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face released on June 5th, 2020, via Closed Casket Activities. Listen to the album and purchase it digitally on END’s Bandcamp.