We all have our dirty metal secrets that we selfishly keep to ourselves, only sharing with a select few close to us. Or alternatively, we incessantly talk up underground gems and spread the gospel to anyone that will listen, as we cherish our slice of underground cred. Into the Obscure aims to right the wrongs and unearth the artists/albums that for whatever unjust reason didn’t get the exposure or credit they sorely deserved the first time round.
In the early to mid aughts, my evolution into the underground realms of extreme metal had well and truly been consolidated and I was seeking the uglier, harsher and more experimental sounds lurking in the vast subterranean. I had taken a crash course through the history of extreme metal and become closely affiliated with a handful of death and grind classics and other underground treasures. In 2000, Jason Tipton founded American label Willowtip Records and a couple of years after its inception it quickly became one of my go-to labels for distro purchases and discovering cutting edge bands from within the label’s roster. And back in the day the label was near unstoppable.
Along with quality underrated bands like Crowpath, Commit Suicide, Neuraxis, Harakiri and Watchmaker, Willowtip released a handful of particularly special albums that I hold close to my heart to this day, including the legendary Arsis debut, A Celebration of Guilt, Ion Dissonance‘s punishing Breathing is Irrelevant, the Kalibas debut, Product of Hard Living, Capharnaum‘s Fractured, and the sole LP from Ohio band Rune, entitled The End of Nothing. Rune‘s unheralded masterwork is the subject of today’s dissection, and some 15-plus years since its release, it holds up remarkably well and remains a groundbreaking, if underappreciated album. Although containing the dissonant, techy death and grind elements synonymous with the label’s output during that era, Rune established themselves as a fiercely unique and innovative artistic force, standing out from the pack with a difficult to pigeon hole sound that was uniquely theirs.
The End of Nothing strikes with gut punch force, equipped with a diverse and harrowing sound. It’s rooted in dark and hefty death metal and blending elements of black, doom, sludge and somber, stripped back passages of post-metal beauty with borderline chaotic bursts of techy death-grind. Rune boasted impressive chops, experimental flair, and the rare skill to write and arrange such extreme, complex yet memorable compositions without losing focus or sacrificing flow and cohesion. However, The End of Nothing is by no means an easy listen. Drenched in gloom, it’s an album simmering with unsettling menace and depressive atmosphere, while the nature of the song-writing and weighty length (eight songs in 44 minutes) provides lots to absorb. But it’s also never dull or meandering, the unpredictable flow keeping you engaged, yet repeat listens and complete immersion reveal the stunning depth and power of the album. “An Affinity” provides a compelling opening statement, revealing the gritty, shape-shifting wonders of Rune‘s meaty sound, flipping effortlessly from harsh, dissonant outbursts, gentle passages that are both elegant and ominous, and lurching death-doom throes.
The End of Nothing‘s somber melodies may be fleeting on occasion but they underpin the album and really get under the skin. So even when Rune fly off the handle with caustic whirlwinds of death and grind mayhem, the sorrowful tone, melodic undertow and heartfelt emotion dripping from the album lends extra weight and substance to Rune‘s brutal, aggressive elements, serrated riffage, harsh vocals, and propulsive percussion. Each song on the album is deftly and intelligently crafted. From the spastic death-grind maelstrom of “Worthless Endeavor,” through to the stunning musical dynamics and moody shifts of the nine minute plus epic, “This Sorrow,” devastating lurch of melancholic brutality defining “Wilt,” or stately death-doom-grind assault of “Opium for My Soul,” The End of Nothing is a captivating beast. The album is best consumed as a whole, where the differing styles and unpredictable shifts come together cohesively; taut song-writing tendons connecting the album’s muscles to the bone.
These days I’ve softened a bit regarding my intake of more experimental metal. Back in the day bands like Pyrrhon and Imperial Triumphant would have been among my favorite bands, but the mood rarely strikes for the arty, controlled chaos and intense commitment required to fully appreciate such artists on a regular basis. Rune was a short lived but special band and The End of Nothing remains strangely accessible to me, despite my general reluctance to consume metal of its kind these days. Maybe that’s the thing; Rune was truly one of a kind, operating in their own warped headspace to craft a damaged, cerebral underground essential.