(DemiGodRaven reviews the new EP by Sweden’s This Ending.)
Man, the artwork makes me uncomfortable. There’s just something about anything being done to the eye that really tends to get under my skin. I don’t know what it is. I can watch some of the goriest stuff ever made, but seeing things happen to either the eye or the fingernails really gives me the willies (penis!), even in artwork form. I shredded about four thousand different zombies to pieces in Dead Space 2, but that scene where you need to put a needle in the protagonist’s eye was the part that got to me. It is hard to tell whether the fact that the artwork for This Ending’s new EP Systematic Worship reminds me of this is a good thing, but the art is definitely evocative.
This Ending are a Sweden-based melo-death group who have been going for a while now, but recently seem to have been reactivated. You’re probably familiar with their name from seeing it on sites such as Blabbermouth alongside the headline “Amon Amarth Drummer’s Band, This Ending…” Fredrik Andersson is indeed the most famous member, but the band have been going strong without a lineup change since 2005, managing at least to release some form of new material about every three years.
They’ve actually had many names and an even longer history prior to that (which you can read about on their facebook page), but I’m focusing on the group’s most recent slate of material: 2012 has brought this self-released three-song EP instead of a full blown album. Also, as a bonus, I have found that you can download two of three songs for free on both their Reverbnation and Soundcloud pages.
One of the luxuries of reviewing such a small EP is that it allows the writer to really drill down and discuss each song. I don’t feel that Systematic Worship necessarily demands or warrants that kind of detailed treatment, especially since two of the songs are available for free, but it might still be useful to give you at least a description of where you’re headed and thoughts about whether any of this is worth your time.
Now, I don’t mean to imply that the band completely copped out and dashed off a few mediocre songs just to remind people they still exist. However, I am incredibly picky when it comes to my melodeath listenings. Two specific qualities have really been the make-or-break points for me over the years: the extent of focus on melodic guitar leads, and the speed with which they are played. That is why a group like Nightrage stands out so much to me. Quite a few bands like to keep things ‘traditional’, so to speak, by maintaining a more mid-tempo groove. A bunch of bands do that, though, so it takes quite a bit to stick out from the chaff in that range. Dark Tranquillity are pretty good at it, but very few other bands come to mind . . . maybe Crystalic (another band who give away their music for free), maybe.
To put it politely, that means the cards are stacked against Systematic Worship in some respects, because none of the three songs really takes off. In a way, they sort of play to the cheap seats. The stuff here is familiar and, yes, mid-tempo, so you will need to enjoy it from the get-go or not at all . . . or maybe you’re a huge fan of Amon Amarth and have already given in to their numerous twitter and facebook posts telling you to check out their drummer’s other band.
Systematic Worship kicks off with a five-and-a-half-minute piece titled “Our Creation”. The other two songs are around the four-minute range, so the whole experience wraps itself up in about fourteen minutes. “Our Creation” has an opening segment that is reminiscent of current-day Arch Enemy. You’ll hear it almost immediately in the way the bass drum is mixed and how it hammers along. If I were to pick an illustrative example, it would probably be “My Apocalypse”.
The group’s vocalist is interesting for one of these types of bands. Most of the time you’ll find that they prefer to go either the Tomas Lindberg school of really hoarse shouting or just full-blown death metal shrieks. With This Ending, however, you get a vocalist who has a bit of a throaty gurgle in what he does; it sounds as if he would actually be pretty comfortable in a black metal band.
In “Our Creation”, the guitars do generate some melody, but they aren’t really mixed that high, which is a very odd choice. It seems like the vocals are at the forefront, with the stringed instruments taking up the whole mid-region and the drums in the back. This has the effect of drowning out some of the guitar work when the drums really get going. During the main solo before the last sung chorus, things get a little static-filled, so you don’t really get to enjoy the guitar pyrotechnics as much as you would like.
“Our Creation” is a pretty standard tune otherwise. There’s no truly memorable melody short of the sung chorus, which is alright. Yes, you can tell the drummer played in Amon Amarth, for sure. Those rolls and that specific tone should be very familiar to anyone who has heard their recent music.
Following “Our Creation”, you get a bit of witty wordplay, a shorter song, and a bit more memorable melody in “Army Of (N)one” (get it?!). “Army of (N)one” is one of the better songs on Systematic Worship, and I think it probably would’ve been a better opener. Arguing about track order on a three-song release does seem a little silly, but even on a short release you really should want to put your best foot forward.
“Army Of (N)one” is more in line with my opening qualifications. Here, the guitar melody during the chorus really sticks out, and it is easy for this one to earworm itself into your brain. The only thing about “Army of (N)one” that struck me as being a little goofy was the shift about halfway through the song when the band decided to bring in some extra singing. It actually felt like they were building up to a breakdown, which would’ve been both silly and downright heinous. Of course, that didn’t happen, and the band instead made up for it with a pretty good solo. “Army Of (N)one” is one of those songs that is like 4/5th’s a great tune. If they had done something else with that middle section, I’m sure that I would be singing the praises of this song as the one to seek out.
Lastly, the band deliver another four-minute run with “No More Silence”. I’m actually giving this one another spin as I type this, so the next two paragraphs are probably going to be a bit more stream-of-consciousness than what you might consider professional. Re-reading the previous two paragraphs, maybe “Our Creation” was the oddball of the three songs, because “No More Silence” is another traditional tune. Also, the idiosyncrasies of This Ending’s vocalist are much less noticeable here. Drawing another Dark Tranquillity comparison, he seems to channel Mikael Stanne a bit in this one.
When the guitar isn’t power-chording its way through the chorus, it delivers a good melody, which tends to skip along to the tempo of the song and matches up well with the double-bass roll in this song. I know I haven’t payed much attention to the bass here, and it may just be the mix in the songs the band has posted up, but I can’t really hear it. It seems like the bass in this band is content to go along with the rest of the song. You’ll detect it a little bit as it climbs higher up in notes, but only because it sounds like a low guitar. It’s a little strange that this is the first time I’ve ever noticed it, and it happens as the song is closing.
This Ending are capable of playing solid melo-death, as Systematic Worship shows. The issue for these guys and their big PR push is going to be sticking out from the crowd. There have been some amazing releases recently, and a band whose music is circa the late-90’s Gothenburg explosion may have trouble distinguishing themselves. We have hundreds of songs in this style to choose from in our archives, so only really huge fans of the genre will likely take note of this specific EP.
I think “Army Of (N)one” and “No More Silence” are solid listens, but it is hard to picture myself jumping to these guys for my eight-minute drive to work and back. Again, with two of the songs available for free via two different distribution platforms, it certainly doesn’t hurt to check out what This Ending are doing; you can find the third tune via Youtube. Hey, maybe you’ll find something more to like that I missed after five listens.
As it stands, I think a full CD of This Ending with their current caliber of songwriting would likely feel as if it were going on for eternity, but maybe the band have some fresh tricks up their sleeves and this EP just represents an attempt to get the old vehicle moving again. It always takes a bit of movement before you get up to speed, and if This Ending ever reach full throttle, I’ll be happy to give them another glance.
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