End Boss – They Seek My Head Review

I’m not gonna lie, I grabbed this one based on the band name alone. While I don’t consider myself to be a hardcore gamer, I’ve still played enough to have the name End Boss give me an immediate feeling of nostalgic mental arousal. The name makes me want to head to the nearest merchant to stock up on healing potions, buffing elixirs, and specialty arrows before listening. But who am I kidding? I’m lazy. You know perfectly well that I Instacarted the hell out of that shit. My personal shopper made a few terrible substitutions, grabbing a basic Protection From Evil scroll instead of the godlike Protection From Magic scroll I’d requested, but it is what it is. Finally reasonably well equipped for the epic battle, I don Holdeneye’s Headphones of Heaviness and step into the arena with trepidation, wondering what form(s) this End Boss might take.

I watch as New Zealand’s End Boss partially emerges from a dark tunnel opposite my position. As its debut, They Seek My Head, begins, it unleashes a series of pleasant echoing leads and an angelic voice, attempting to enchant me into lowering my guard. But then the beast steps fully into the light, bringing to bear its mighty riffs, and I realize in horror that it wields an immense guitar tone, the kind that can pulverize brain cells from a mile away. It becomes immediately apparent that the beast fights using the style of stoner/doom and, not unlike myself, makes up for what it lacks in speed and agility with overwhelming heft. There’s no better example of End Boss’s fighting style than embedded single “Punished,” a road grader of a track that comes out crushing and showcases the haunting vocals of singer E.J. Thorpe. The song makes an effort to end our battle before it truly begins, but—knowing that the beast’s blows are too powerful to parry—I roll out of harm’s way, my achy joints cracking and creaking as I do so. Somehow, I live to fight another track.

We go blow for blow, the End Boss unleashing a torrent of varied attacks. The most devastating strikes are the slowest. “Covet” begins in brooding fashion, gathering momentum before unleashing a shockwave that wouldn’t feel out of place on a downtempo Alice in Chains crusher, and “The Crawl” lives up to its name as Thorpe’s voice soars over huge palm-mutes and massive pinch harmonics that remind me of the thick, sludgy guitars found on Black Label Society’s Stronger than Death album. “They Seek My Head” closes things out pretty well, and if you’re like me, you’ll probably reload and start the whole battle over again.

But just like a Metroid boss fight, ultimately this End Boss misses out on greatness because it employs a relatively predictable pattern of moves. They Seek My Head is really short—for a stoner record—but it can be easy to lose track of where you are at any given moment, and a few of the tracks land as filler. I easily dodged the pseudo-grunge barrage of “Nail and Tooth” and “Lorded Over,” songs that failed to embed themselves in my memory. Those tracks employ faster passages, and as I mentioned above, End Boss has a better chance of defeating me when it moves at a glacier’s pace. Tracks like “Heart of the Sickle,” “Punished,” “Covet,” and “The Crawl” land with such impact that they forced me to use every potion at my disposal in order to survive.

But survive, I did. They Seek My Head may not be the most challenging or surprising boss fight I’ve ever encountered, but it was still rewarding to spend time in the arena with End Boss. On this, their debut, it feels like the band is still trying to nail down their sound, and I think they’re off to a great start. The slower songs have a gritty swagger that’s tough to beat, and if End Boss can perfect it, I might have to use cheat codes to survive the sequel.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Rough Peel Records
Websites: end-boss.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/endbossband
Releases Worldwide: April 8th, 2022

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