On May 3rd, English rock group Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes mark their return with the release of their third full-length record, End of Suffering (International Death Cult/AWAL). Poised to build off of the success of 2017’s Modern Ruin, the band describes their latest effort as “the sound of a band entering an entirely new realm of the senses.” Moreover, they hope to show that they are “not just a hardcore punk band; [they have] much bigger ideas than that.”
The ambitions of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are worn on their sleeves, and while their intentions are admirable and their efforts certainly commendable, End of Suffering inevitably falls short of their lofty goals. It is a record so intent on proving its own artistic adventurousness, it becomes a sort of cut-and-paste pastiche of segments – a sum total that never amounts to more than any one of its parts.
This is not to condemn the record in its entirety, as there are certainly some gems to be uncovered here, not the least of which being Frank Carter’s stellar vocal performance throughout: the slick, vaguely sexy intro of “Kitty Sucker,” the spirited snarling of the words “fucking heathen” on “Supervillain,” and the rally cries of “Crowbar.” The rub, however, is that the often addictive and occasionally inventive vocal melodies tend lose their potency by virtue of being a vessel for rock lyric cliches and tired stock phrases.
The brightest moments on End of Suffering come from Thomas Mitchener’s infectious synth lines and Gareth Grover’s clever, pulsing drum work. The band is at its danceable best in the verses of “Little Devil” and “Latex Dreams,” where Dean Richardson’s single-note guitar riffs are elevated by Grover and Mitchener’s interplay. These moments cast Carter in his best light: sneering and crooning, channeling his inner Josh Homme.
The catch is that these fleeting instances, where the stars seem to align for the band, are relegated to the verses, which are too often cut with a dead-stop rest that leads into an underwhelming chorus or a bridge section that saps energy from the track, rather than giving rise to the crescendo that the otherwise strong verse deserves.
This seems to be the story of the record at large: kernels of would-be greatness stifled by sloppy transitions and a paint-by-numbers approach to songwriting that leaves even the Tom Morello cameo on “Tyrant Lizard King” feeling like a contrived celebrity walk-on, rather than a welcome visit from an old friend.
It is in no way a step backward from 2017’s Modern Ruin, but it’s not exactly a step forward, either. With End of Suffering, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes have mustered a record that is in many ways good enough. But for a premier act with stadium sized aspirations, maybe good isn’t good enough.
Written by Cy Williams
*edited by Kate Erickson