Something, something, the sum of its parts, or whatever. Anyone coming to END and asking “what do you get if you cross Counterparts with Fit For An Autopsy and Dillinger…” is already doing themselves a disservice. They’re loaded with preconceptions and they’re not asking the right question. The question actually is “what happens when the guys from these bands want to step aside and play the heaviest music they can?” Who knows how they got here, only they know, but Splinters From An Ever-Changing Face happened, and the hugely anticipated follow up to a sordidly heavy debut EP delivers even heavier. Go figure.

The legitimate crushing power of From the Unforgiving Arms of God hasn’t been replicated but in full-length form, it’s worth noting. The manic d-beating and slabs of crunchy tone are represented impeccably, obviously, but the record feels like a wholly realised piece. The debut EP was stunning, that has to be said, but definitely felt like a smattering of really solid, heavy tracks worth pitting over. This time around there’s a whole album swirling with flashes of unruly hardcore and blackened grind, pinned together with undercurrents of dark ambience and a creepy subplot involving a psych ward and a breakdown. The other kind. With several tracks approaching powerviolence length, there’s a real flow to the calamity and corrosive mood swings, from front to back.

With the bombastic timekeeping of Billy Rymer – the maestro given a chance to bite down and smash all fuck out his kit in this instance – Splinters From An Ever-Changing Face opens the pit right away, with the two lead singles. “Covet Not”, with its jarring shifts of time and tempo is the perfect opener, edging out “Pariah” just slightly – Brendan Murphy absolutely belting out “YOUR. FUCKING. END.” through the closer of that one provoking the kind of daft goosebumps you’d get when you first see a trailer for a movie you’ve longed for, but more on him later. Really though, outside of a few Silent Hillsy interludes and a couple of tar-thick, snail slow breakdowns, there’s fuck all respite ’til the closer – “Sands of Sleep”, a track that has no business being as moody as it is, with a decidedly haunting female vocal and a, let’s say Neurosis but FFO Stray From The Path kind of attack. Sounds complicated, but it’s really not. Just a fantastic and unexpected closer to a rip-roaring record.

All the compliments so far and not a letter on the album’s show-winning attraction. The middle anchor of tracks – “Fear For Me Now”, “Hesitation Wounds”, and “Captive to My Curse” holds this intense attention-demanding run of groovy, dark hardcore that has Murphy reaching such heady heights of carnal barking that he ceases to sound like the Counterparts vocalist at times. Putney and Thomas’ guitars cut in and out of each other with punk lashings and sludge decibels, with Pepito’s bass thankfully given a prominent position in the final edit; the low-end booming with building razing dynamics. The shorter more abrasive tracks don’t feel tacked on to either side of “Hesitation Wounds” either, instead serving as counterpoints to the album’s most pummeling track. With Rymer’s energy turned to the constant forward motion of obliterating hardcore, some of his flair could have gotten lost, but that too never becomes an issue; the percussive octopus still finding time to break out the jerky, odd-time grooves and train-derailing fills.

Complaints? No real ones. Maybe could have done with some more of that delightful pitch-shifted bass on “Hesitation Wounds” (seriously, what a track) and a couple of tracks might turn into skips if the listener is urgent to get to the showreel, but that’s it. Splinters From An Ever-Changing Face is a rightfully hyped record delivering everything expected of it, while END are kind enough to throw in a good bit more as well. It’s highly likely this could be an introduction to oppressively heavy music for fans of all of the bands involved, and that deserves celebrating itself. What an introduction. A seriously pleasing record full of rich, dark passages, and one very, very fun to review.

Splinters From an Ever-Changing Face is available now via Closed Casket Activities.

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