We cannot even begin to discuss Stockholm, Sweden-based melodic death metal quartet This Ending without a protracted and glowing bout of reminiscence for their spiritual predecessor A Canorous Quintet and this has long been a single-edged sword for the group as they’d initially attempted to break out of the early 2000’s with a more commercial take on melodic death metal via Metal Blade, to mixed results. What I mean to suggest is that their knife only seems to cut one way for their existing fandom, whom remain heavily nostalgic for their past as one of the earliest and most resonant Swedish melodic death metal bands and, well, also one of the most memorable beyond the three or four most famous progenitors. As a reader with your own well-formed opinions and idiosyncratic taste I’ll give the benefit of the doubt here and assume there is some mutual understanding that the first to fashion a new sub-genre is not always the “best” or most valuable, I can make this distinction simply because anyone interested in this fourth full-length from This Ending, ‘Needles of Rust‘, is undoubtedly carrying some deeply ingrained love for ‘Silence of the World Beyond’ in hand. For the nostalgia bound, yes, Linus Nirbrant‘s guitar work is going to sell you this album and the straight forward and brilliantly polished modern melodic death metal within has otherwise taken stock of the strong nostalgic appeal of their past selves since reforming their other group back in 2016. Of course there is more to it than that, and this album stands on its own in other ways but, at the very least this record manages to be a triumphant crowd-pleaser with a bit of an epic spiritus floating throughout its tremolo heavy pulse.
For the purpose of this review we’ll have to consider drummer and key songwriter Fredrik Andersson‘s (Netherbird, ex-Amon Amarth) contributions on the previous album (‘Garden of Death‘, 2016) and ‘Needles of Rust’ as vital to shaping This Ending‘s sound away from their Metal Blade albums though he’d apparently left the band before they had completed this record and does not perform on it, instead the brilliant Peter Nagy-Eklöf (Mörk Gryning, Eternal Oath, ex-Hypocrite) provides drums and guitars here. Here is the first unidirectional blade slice for the post-A Canorous Quintet years: They’d changed their name to avoid the expectations assigned by classic melodic death metal status, wanting to do something else, but it’d seem Swedish melodeath pull was and is yet too big of a force to reckon with. Granted, folks who make no distinction between ‘The Only Pure Hate‘ (1998) and the two albums that followed are perhaps not entirely in tune with the hyper specific traits that the original band lead with. Point being that Andersson‘s songwriting and Nirbrant‘s playing do appear directly or, intentionally, evocative of the house that their first (and still current) band built on their two full-lengths on this album. A complex way to get there and a bit redundant on my part but it allows us to skip over too much mooning over the past and get on with other reasons this is a fine melodeath album. What I will say is the artists involved here have been making loud, catchy and emotional extreme metal for decades but I’m not sure the passion (or, energy) of the performances has poured from the get-go like this from any configuration since 1998.
The major points for this release are already stated thus far. Faster, more ornate, and still heavily stylized guitar work sells this modern-yet-traditional melodic death metal album up front. The appeal is fairly broad here, particularly if you’re still pretty keen on early Amon Amarth (see: “Annihilate”) as much as the predecessor to this band. Blazing fast tremolo-picked riffs with vast and sweeping progressions dance here with the sort of classic heavy metal spirit the most classic melodic death metal is associated with, not exactly the bouncy Maiden-stricken Gothenburg brand in true but a bit closer to the muscle memory of those who’d migrated to Stockholm in the early 90’s. “Embraced by the Night” is perhaps the most clear example of a stab directly at the heart of nostalgia with its acoustic intro and the orchestration of the rhythm guitar patternation atop the upward climbing progression presented. If we zoom into the ~1:05 minute mark on this song and let it ring through to about ~1:12 we see the signature rhythmic movement that’d made the opening moments of ‘Silence of the World Beyond’ such an illuminating experience. We see quite a lot of (then) teenaged death metal guitarists from the Swedish suburbs applying their classical music lessons to rock structures up until 1996 and beyond that these sort of arrangements are rare enough that I’d happily cheer this piece on for hours. It does not topple me into a pool of human existential mush as the auld albums still do but simply invoking them in this direct way yanks at me in a profound way. These sorts of intimately triumphant pieces or, introverted melodeath songs alternate with again these stomping and roaring songs throughout the record so, “Embraced by the Night” gives way to “Eclipse of the Dead” which features a robust and expanding resonance which again I would compare to Andersson‘s time in another very famous band. I’m not saying that it sounds like ‘The Avenger’ but, this won’t be a huge stretch to most ears. At this point Side A has done all the necessary work, these songs should be enough to gain fealty with most by virtue of the songcraft and strong production values, which aren’t quite as thickly atmospheric as groups like Insomnium and allow for a bit more crucial guitar detail as the driver of the experience.
The title track is the first spark of life on Side B, with the simple rise and fall of its lead guitar melody more or less echoed on “Devastate” right afterwards, creating a sense of sameness and perhaps redundancy before the piece actually kicks into its melodeath/thrash groove refrain. We’re served the same swaying sort of melody for the final piece on the album and this (admittedly slight) continuity between the last three songs is something I’ve yet to appreciate outside of a casual, unfocused listen. “Hell to Hell” is nonetheless one of the stronger songs on the album and a fine place to reprise that same feeling that I’d associated with “Embraced by the Night”, we’re ending on a classic note here in this nightmarish realm presented throughout ‘Needles of Rust’. When every riff is memorized and the pleasurably classic swerve of this album becomes familiar enough the lyrics and delivery from vocalist Mårten Hansen may become a key point of interest for some listeners, blending imagery from nightmares with real nightmarish is somehow even more disturbing than either extreme would’ve been and I appreciate that his rasp still carries its own distinct power even with more range spread about overall.
Much as I’d like to strain plenty more insight from ‘Needles of Rust’ the pedigree of the band and their classic artistry speaks to me in the same way as mid-90’s melodic death metal did, cathartic and contemplative work with some serious rushes of dark Swedish adrenaline along the way. It is the sort of album you should be able to let rip and feel no major need to analyze beyond a few significant nods to the past which are, to my ears, meant to be most rousing for the long-time listener but never interrupt the flow of things. Though a couple of the pieces on here don’t hold up to the best in hand otherwise, I’d nonetheless found this to be the best work from This Ending to date with consideration for the entire package (sound design, artwork, theme, performances, et al.) and it bodes well for whatever A Canorous Quintet end up doing in the future, if anything. A moderately high recommendation.
|TITLE:||Needles of Rust|
|LABEL(S):||Black Lion Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||June 11th, 2021|
|BUY & LISTEN:||Bandcamp [All Formats]|
|GENRE(S):||Melodic Death Metal|
Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:
Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.