It takes a fair amount of guts to choose a band name that means “Enduring.” One either suffers from an excess of hubris or possesses a single-minded determination to live up to the moniker. Montreal’s Endast have certainly proven that they can endure with a career spanning over a decade, the release of one EP and now three full-length albums, and 350,000km on the road. On Thrive, their latest release, Endast continue to hone their craft to surgical precision. Thrive doesn’t see the band straying far from its work on 2011’s “Black Cloud” in terms of tonal or stylistic choices, but this collection of songs is certainly stronger musically in both the individual performances and how the group gels together.
Stylistically, Endast are a tough to nail down. If they were a pizza, the crust holding everything together would most certainly be metalcore, but the toppings are a peculiar mix. Interspersed between the familiar metalcore chug are elements of Death Metal, NWOAHM, Power Metal (thanks in part to guest vocals from Soilwork’s Bjorn Strid). Even within the Metalcore sub-genre, Endast seem to draw more inspiration from spaced-out, early 2000’s post-hardcore acts such as early Hopesfall than bands on the more aggressive end of the spectrum, despite lead vocalist Big James’ satisfyingly brutal growl (the first album that came to mind after hearing Thrive was Hopesfall’s brilliant 2002 full-length, The Satellite Years) While Endast’s music certainly employs many conventional metalcore tropes, the overabundance of musical talent on every instrument leads to far more depth and nuance than one would expect.
What stands out within the first few bars of opening track “We Will Be” is the quality of the production. Every instrument comes through clear as a bell, a necessity considering the level of musical technicality employed during most of the tracks. Guitarists Chris Arsenian and Pepe Poliquin’s guitar tones are meaty and satisfying, their leads strong but not overwhelming. Many of the aforementioned additional pizza toppings come from Arsenian and Poliquen’s well stocked musical pantry. Any way you slice it, I’m hungry for more! (Apologies; it was important for me to beat that stale food analogy sufficiently to death) The rhythm section, comprised of drummer Blair Youngblut and bassist Ryan Miller, is rock solid and Youngblut’s chops behind the kit are really quite exceptional.
Despite this incredible well of talent, there are some missteps. Thrive rarely ventures far from formula. Many of the album’s eleven tracks reside within a very narrow tempo range and while the songs are well structured, the album drags near the end due to predictability in form. While excellent, acoustic instrumental track “The Torus” would have far more impact if the preceding track was a full on Ringworm-style screamer.
Follow up track “Suck It Up” starts with a bang and is Thrive‘s most aggro track, but the opening salvo gives way to a familiar mid-tempo chorus section.
There is also an odd disconnect between the lyrical style and the music. The overarching lyrical theme of Thrive is one of finding community and empowerment through music. This is certainly refreshing, given metalcore’s predilection towards hyper-aggressive “Bro, do you even lift?” bombastics. Big James keeps things simple and straight to the point. Here is the opening line to “Brotherhood:”
“It’s true what they say
there’s really nothing I would never do for you
I would fight until my last breath
I would give until my last cent”
Hard to miss his meaning, right? So, what’s wrong with succinct, earnest lyrics? Absolutely nothing. The above verse would be right at home lodged in the larynx of Terror’s Scott Vogel. However with Endast, the music driving these lyrics is incredibly intricate so the simplicity of the words creates this bizarre dissonance that’s hard to ignore.
Endast’s newest record showcases a band that have put considerable time and effort into polishing their sound.There is a well-earned self-confidence in the album’s tone and direction, meaning that while Thrive might not be everyone’s slice of pie, the members of Endast know they’ve put out a solid offering that’s worth a listen.
Written by Jesse Gainer