EP Review: Endvade - "Ascension"

By now, everyone and their metal brother has an opinion of ‘djent.’ My compatriot Chris has spoken about this phenomenon before, as well as its divisive nature and the splinter’s penchant for drumming up intense debate about how metal ‘should’ sound. I find myself a man without a country in this particular instance. I can’t in good conscience speak against an entire outlying genre when it’s entirely possible that someone out there can make it sound good. As such, I have no recourse but to treat djent as I do every other damn thing that crosses my desk; if I like it, I’ll support it, no matter how far out of character it may seem (hence my continued fanhood of Doobie Brothers songs from forty years ago.)

Endvade is a tiny little DIY progressive djent act from what they define as a “burrow north of Montreal.” Their press release for their new EP “Ascension” describes their music and affect as ‘alien,’ and while that’s mentioned in jest, there certainly is some credence to the claim.

I find myself immediately drawn to the second cut, titled “Religion.” As my life-long musical journey continues, I find that recently I’m increasingly fascinated by production that ignores the common concept of melody and instead places sections of totally overblown noise in sequence (Sleigh Bells’ “Crown on the Ground” comes to mind.) “Religion” does this in spades, as the song’s baseline rhythm isn’t so much a construction of chords and notes as it is a series of lobbed, super-produced hand grenades. The overlay is a scaling of the artistic end of a guitar demonstration, but the spine of the song remains the concussive blasts concealed underneath.

The rubbery nature of djent plays well into the endgame of Endvade, as the customary palm-muting and syncopation remains intact, but the progressive virtuosity allows Endvade to not only play around with the equalization, but take their sound in a different direction from those come before. “Unconditional Love” essentially ends with a three minute guitar solo that’s loaded not only with traditional six-string prowess, but spins in the typical djent gimmicks and tricks to produce a sound that is at the very least academically interesting and in its best moments, genuinely intriguing. As you listen to “How’s the Rain,” I’m certain that the counter-argument will be ‘but hey, he’s just playing scales!’ To which I respond yes, but it’s not about the scales, dammit, it’s about the combination of scales with the open space rhythm riffs and consistent percussion.

Musically, there’s very little to subtract points from as far as Endvade is concerned. The band’s failing point is their vocal performance, which is something I feel like I’ve been saying a lot lately. I understand that the theory of djent comes equipped with a sub-human growl, but must it? The growl in this particular case is distracting, taking away from the accomplished musical achievement that “Ascension” should rightfully be. The non-growled sections of “Religion” are perfectly adequate, so it wouldn’t take a classically trained singer or a Rob Halford sound-alike to make this thing work.

Check out “Ascension,” even if you don’t think you’re into djent. It’s got a different spin, and while I wish it were an instrumental EP, it’s still a nice step forward for the band. Let’s hope this is the foothold for something more.

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