End of Green have a shit-kickingly bad band name. I’ve always hated it, but it hasn’t stopped me from following these guys since their 2002 Songs for a Dying World release. They started life as a gothic, doomy metal act that stole most of their inspiration from Type O Negative, but over the course of their career they’ve drifted toward a more direct gloom-rock style not very far from Entwine, Lacrimas Profundere, late period Sentenced and Katatonia. Their early albums were terribly inconsistent and suffered from some bigtime filler demons, yet their talent was always apparent on a few standout tracks. Things started to turn for the better on their Dead End Dreaming album which introduced a much more streamlined, rock friendly style and better writing (who could resist the charm of glum anthems like “Drink Myself to Sleep“?). They’ve tinkered with this approach for a few albums now with mostly positive results and they’ve definitely been improving as writers as they rumbled along. They dub their current sound “depressive subcore” and I suppose that’s as good as saying they play doomy, goth rock. The Painstream is their eighth and best release to date and it’s loaded with hooky anthems to depression and darkness, tailor-made for those who wear black and hate people for fun. It’s more accessible and rockin’ than ever and almost sounds like a very dark, unhappy Bush album (singer Michael Huber bears an uncanny similarity to Gavin Rossdale at times). They certainly aren’t a complex band and these songs are all basic and show their cards quickly, but each has its strengths and they’ve become quite adept at mixing goth/doom ideals with hard rock.
Energetic, yet downcast rockers like “Hangman’s Joke” and “Holiday’s in Hell” could easily be on hard rock radio and get positive attention. They have memorable choruses and maintain that all important weepy unhappiness. “Standalone” sounds like something off a Black Label Society album and has way more grit, but the chorus is pure Entwine. Other ditties like “De(ad)generation” (see what they did there?) remind me of vintage Sisters of Mercy, while “Death of the Weakender” and “Final Resistance” both strum the same heartstrings as David Galas and his brand of sad, isolated desert rock.
The best tune to my ears is “Home on Fire” which uses a good bit of Katatonia-esque flair and some particularly sullen riffing to create a nihilistic and foreboding mood that belies the song’s overall accessibility. If this thing doesn’t help clean out some of your negative emotion stockpile, you have really bad mental hygiene. Almost as good is the Sid and Nancy style anthem “Don’t Stop Killing Me” which also channels Entwine‘s dark rock and hits all the right sour notes. None of the songs are bad and this is a very solid and listenable collection of tunes with a nice ebb and flow of moods and angst levels.
I’ve been impressed with the steady improvement in Michael Huber’s vocals over the years and he reaches new heights here. He still falls back into Big Pete imitations here and there and his low-register baritone works fine, but he’s really grown as a singer and sounds much more comfortable with his doom rock vocals. He can still sound utterly depressed, but now he can do it with several different vocal styles. Sure, he sounds like Gavin Rossadale sometimes and he can get rather emo, but that’s the name of the game when you swim in these gloom-rock waters. Guitarists Oliver Merkle and Michael Setzer mix things up well between doomy, sad riffing and straight ahead rock styles. They also excel at understated playing during the slower, sadder moments. They do a lot of things right on The Painstream and though they keep it all simple, the inject a lot to feeling.
This is light years beyond their early albums in terms of both playing and writing. Their steady improvement has led to a few solid releases, but this is a much more full, complete album and a very enjoyable one too. It isn’t crushingly heavy, but it has the traditional elements of doom rock and enough downbeat mopiness to drive anyone to drink (themselves to sleep). One of the better goth/doom rock albums I’ve heard in a while for sure. Hey guys, now that you’re making such major inroads, maybe it’s time to change that fucking band name! End of Green my ass!