Album Review: Endast - "Thrive"

Going the road by yourself in the music world is an admirable goal, but one that is difficult to obtain. The digital marketplace of the modern millennium makes the DIY journey more palatable, but it remains obtrusively difficult to break through in the absence of a record label; their finances, marketing power and presence can do a lot for an artist.

Yet here we see Endast, Canadian unsigned rockers who reportedly have turned down deals with labels just to keep the formula working. One can only assume that the members of the band must be equal part accomplished musician, carnival barker and downright hustler to stay alive in the dog-eat-dog world of underground metal, but their perseverance not only makes them intriguing. So much so, evidently, that is has attracted the producing attention of Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid from Soilwork, who is trying his hand at the producing game (and lending a guest vocal) to Endast’s new record, “Thrive.”

There’s a lot to like about Endast, not the least of which is their message. Attentive readers will know that we at this site nearly never concern ourselves with message first and foremost, but the thrust of Endast’s lyrics are centered on the noble ideas of endeavoring to be greater and owning one’s own fate; to “thrive,” in effect. What makes this message so notable as it threads seamlessly through cuts with titles like “Your Best Stories are Victories,” is that the story is told without resorting to the usual baseline bravado and bullshit that so characterized similar bands. There’s more going on here than a moral of ‘is someone hurts you, stand up and hurt them back.’ That sophomoric sentiment is instead replaced by the concept of fulfilling one’s potential. It’s a subtle difference in language, but one that should not go unnoticed by those seeking a little more intelligence in their metal.

To that end, the production of “Thrive” is irrefutably honest and noticeably homegrown, which in this case is hardly a bad thing. It all speaks to the dedication of the musicians and their will to accomplish the goals of this record with their own means. The sound could be fuller to be certain, but it might not accomplish anything if it was. As it is, the bare-bones tone of the record helps accent the raw writing style, which elevates a foundation of boilerplate heavy metal by infusing it with some authority.

For all the songs that work early, the real ‘wow’ moments of “Thrive” come almost at the end, with the juxtaposition of the peaceful composition “The Torus” and the hammering anthem “Suck it Up.” The latter song even incorporates some fine melody into the mix, placing it smartly over and above the solid foundation of boilerplate metal. This is the prize of “Thrive,” and the primary reason the album is worthwhile.

That all being said, there is an indescribable je ne sais quoi that is absent from “Thrive.” It’s hard to put a finger on it, but the riffs don’t snap like one would except, even if they are well written. There’s an edge that just isn’t as sharp as it could be, and it dulls the Endast experience as a listener. The easy culprit would be the production, but that’s not it; it’s almost as though the musicians of Endast are holding back, or are hesitant to fully embrace the implications of their sound. As much as this speed bump doesn’t derail the album completely, it does cast shadow on an otherwise promising album, rending it less compelling than it should have been.

Endast deserves a lot of credit for sticking to their guns and going along the lonely and more difficult career path. “Thrive” is still a pretty decent listen, even if it doesn’t hit all the marks it should. There are plenty of young bands out there who could take lessons from Endast’s example.

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