3 out of 5
Label: Hydra Head
Produced by: Kurt Ballou
Can’t make it through an Endon review without referencing their self-described sound: “catastrophic noise metal.” That tag seemed to encourage their approach on their Hydra Head debut (and presumably works preceding that) to be that of the kitchen sink ethos, assuming one’s pile of everything + sink is made out of bits of thrash and hardcore and doom metal. The album was never uninteresting, but was also rarely especially grabbing, excepting when the group applied a bit more patience to the approach, and tried constructing songs decisively instead of all-hands-on-edly.
With Kurt Ballou at the boards for followup Through the Mirror, the producer helps the band to carve out an abrasive backbone that helps to keep tracks feeling more defined. However, while still chaotic, with tons of layers and a constant background hiss of noise, Through the Mirror flips to the other side of the line and generally chooses one mode for each song: this is a post-hardcore jam; this is a thrash jam; etc. And this still ends up presenting an overall similar problem when listening to the album as a whole: it doesn’t sync up. Songs don’t lead in to songs, and until the last few tracks, there are no moments that lead into other moments. This is pretty evident with the stop-and-start instrumental opener Nerve Rain, which has some punishing guitar / bass breakdowns, and seems to be working its way to a conclusion with how it does that stopping-and-starting, but that doesn’t really end up being the case. It’s not even abrupt in its conclusion – it’s more just lacking an ending of any sort. The tracks that follow are absolutely impressive in their bluster, and Taichi Nagura’s vocal bravado, but again – the songs are here and then not; there is no ebb and flow intra-track or between them.
…Until the end of the album. The last three tracks are some of the disc’s longest, and while still somewhat imperfect, maybe dodging out of the way of some ultimate moment in favor of being noisy and weird and ‘genre-bending’ instead, the tracks show the group thinking in terms of overall construction instead of just blasting it out for X minutes. We lurch from some excellent, gloomy rock into earned bursts of noise, then a “clean” passage with some recognizable guitar licks before circling back around on a hefty Ballou beat…
As with Mama, then, there are these select songs that definitely show the potential of the group’s frenzied approach when tempered. To be fair, any of Through the Mirror’s tracks, in isolation, are damned hair-raising, fist-pumping stuff, but its these final, more evolved cuts that stand a notch above similarly noisy peers, and make Endon’s efforts worth a listen, and surely worth watching for what may come in the future.