Upwards of Endtime
posted on 12/2005 By:
Wanna hear a true fact? Doesn’t matter, I’m at the helm so I get to pontificate when I want. Anyway, said fact is that back in the day (y’know, before most of us were born), metal was oftentimes party music. No corpsepaint, no ideology, no über-technical musicianship, no clutching of invisible grapefruits, and absolutely no forsaking of a good time in favor of ‘making a statement.’ Though long absent, the party-hardy mentality has been making a comeback in our august genre. A pretty significant number of genre forerunners are reaching back to the seventies and early eighties for inspiration (High on Fire, YOB, and Three Inches of Blood amongst many others), and in doing so they’re setting a fresh precedent for beery, fun-lovin’ musical mindset. Upwards of Endtime have apparently taken notice. It’d be easy to call these guys bandwagon jumpers; though the members come almost entirely from death metal and hardcore backgrounds, this self-titled debut sees them imitating a hodgepodge of decidedly old-school styles.
If nothing else, these guys obviously have no ambitions beyond enjoying themselves, and they seem to be doing a pretty good job of it. Upwards of Endtime isn’t much more than a speedily jammed-out riff fest, and while the songs are undoubtedly entertaining in concert, their quick-and-dirty style is also sort of the problem with this album. In short, the vast majority of these songs could’ve been written by anyone with a passing familiarity with pre-nineties metal. Pentagram-styled classic doom is most prominently featured, and the marching mid-paced power riffs and Bobby Liebling impersonation vocals do their best to evoke the underappreciated pioneers, but Upwards of Endtime dip their toes into all sorts of shit from song to song. Tinny Misfits-inspired punk (“Battlefield”), NWOBHM chunkiness and gang vocals (“Hellnight”), and Maidenistic gallop (“I Am Legend”) all make appearances, but it all comes off as a little hollow on record. The problem with imitating legendary bands is that in doing so, you’re guaranteeing comparison to the level of quality that made said bands legendary in the first place. Upwards of Endtime can ably approximate all kinds of styles, but their riffing seems thin and plastic against the backdrop of their influences. Any of you familiar with that Disney World attraction composed of all of the phony country-themed pavilions? This sounds like the metal equivalent: a bunch of simulated riff motifs that, while superficially similar to the originals, are transparently stale and clichéd. It doesn’t help that the band commit some baffling songwriting errors; “Dead to Me” trudges along morosely until it’s broken up by completely inappropriate Jeff Hanneman-esque speed soloing, and both “Stairway to Hell” and “Hellnight” are nearly crippled by chugga riffs that sound like Judas Priest attempting a death metal lurch.
Upwards of Endtime certainly has its place and purpose, and as near as I can tell, that’s on stage in front of several dozen cheery and intoxicated fans. For obvious reasons, that doesn’t translate particularly well to disc, where the band can’t bolster its performance with stage presence. See, this kind of throwback metal hinges entirely on riff quality and rock songwriting acumen, and Upwards of Endtime don’t display any particular knack for either of them. They pay tribute to the greats and even summon up an entertaining moment now and again, but this album is largely dull and colorless.
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