Hey, pals. Back for another A Scene In Retrospect, looking at the toppest of the top and the creamiest of the crop across all genres humanly possible. Today’s album of focus is a bit different from the last few. Russia’s Follow the White Rabbit lead us on an intense, progressive metal chase with some hardcore and psychedelic touches on their 2012 album, Endorphinia. Just so happens we got two big fans of the album right here, so I’ll let them take it away. Be sure to hit play on the songs as you pass them – the atmosphere is quite immersive!
I don’t even know where to begin with this album – not because I’m at a loss of words (although that is the case for certain parts of it), but because there are simply so many things this record stands for in my eyes. I’ve heard countless albums ever since I realized that music is an integral part of me and my life and I’ve never heard anything even remotely close to Endorphinia.
I discovered this album sometime in early 2015 in my search for examples of experimental hardcore which was rather new to me at the time as a style and idea. I remember being drawn to the name of the record, the name of the band, and the artwork – so much so that I figured I have to hit play and see what’s this about.
What ensued was simply ineffable. The sheer amount of astonishment in my head was probably on par with that of humans who discovered fire. Around my first couple of listens, my brain wasn’t able to comprehend what it was hearing. I guess I could liken the feeling to staring at Vantablack fabric where your eyes are utterly boggled because they don’t understand what they are not seeing, instead of what they are seeing. A bewildering confusion mixed with curiosity which is drenched in awe.
I needed several dozen listens until every little detail was neatly in its place inside my head. I also never binged like this on any album ever. As of now I’ve probably played it several hundred times and whenever I listen to it again, it still has something of that fresh impact which you get when hearing something new.
Of course, from a technical standpoint, the contents of the album are absolutely amazing, but the most gripping part in my experience was the emotional impact. I’ve never witnessed something which is so dark, equally surreal and beautiful. It’s also because the more I immersed myself towards the emotive core of the record, I saw what was actually going on. A bond was forming due to how relatable the despair, the chaos, and the calmer parts are. It is a stark reflection, albeit not fully accurate, of past turmoil and darkness. This was highly revealing and it proved to be something of a healing experience as well.
I could rave on for hours on end about how this is some of the best music on this good green Earth, but until you actually go and listen to the album you’ll never be anywhere near it. It’s worth trying to describe it though, as it is a great exercise in depicting things for which the appropriate words have not been created yet. Hopefully my brief take will do it some semblance of justice.
Endorphinia starts out with a suspiciously mellow and eerie tune, which seems to be a droned out guitar gradually building up until there’s simply a loud bang and suddenly everything is on. “The Eye Light” really knows how to set a mood if you ask me. By the time we’re halfway in, we already have a grasp of the dynamics which will be at play – we just don’t know it yet.
The opener is also the only song with Russian lyrics. Not that it would make any difference if the entire album was in Russian, since the lyrics are nigh indecipherable as it is, and they cannot be found anywhere – save for the second and seventh track.
This all flows seamlessly into what I consider one of the greatest songs of all time – “Few Stories Of A Deserted Forest”. As its predecessor, it has violent shifts in mood and tone which are tied together with a charmingly uncanny craftsmanship. This song is also where the vocal delivery shines the most; it’s an absolutely breathtaking spectacle of howls, growls, shrieks, soaring suspensions, and a truly dramatic attitude. Granted, effects and a healthy post-production cosmetically play a big role, but the prowess is still undeniably there and it’s packing a lot of heat.
“Fakeface” (both parts) continues the same level of experimentation, basically taking a musical frame and strapping it with as many different stylistic elements as it can withstand without crashing it. It also further expands on the textures that are being put on display.
The approach and delivery, at least at an instrumental level, is extremely raw and unhinged. There’s a primal character that surfaces clearly on the more aggressive parts and ,of course, the more experimental bits. We also see something that is elegant in the more conventionally styled parts, something that adheres to music in a much more palpable form. Something, I guess, that denotes a certain kind of finesse – besides offering an absolutely lovely contrast throughout the tunes.
Speaking of which, “All Night And Day” is probably the most digestible of the songs, having a more traditionally inclined structure, with an almost catchy kind of chorus as well. It’s probably the last song on the album if I were to rank the songs, but it’s still a solid piece. Now I hope you didn’t get too comfortable listening to that because its follow up is basically dynamite strapped to a ton of thermite.
“Panic Attacks” is one of the most aptly named songs I’ve ever come across. It represents such a moment quite accurately at a sonic level. It’s like a tornado of guns, lightning, and fire. It pummels chaotically and ends abruptly. It feels viscerally real in its wild and untamed way of being. There’s a strange beauty in how well it represents something so destructive.
Returning somewhat to the way some things unfolded, “The Great Worm” is probably the final point where we’re greeted with copious experiments. It basically picks up in the footsteps of “Panic Attacks” but it also comes with some mathy and progressively inclined ideas. While it retains, just like its counterparts, an oddball character, it ends with a simple yet insanely satisfying groove.
While I would say that the whole album is basically just one long song, “War Song”, “Zzz (Zzz)”, and the title track “Endorphinia” seem to retain more of each other’s body and I would view them as one piece that’s been divided into three parts. The ending takes something from the melodic character of “All Night And Day” and expands on the small segment which is the soft side of the band’s sound. As “War Song” still retains some metallic character, “Zzz (Zzz)” only borrows some of the vocal intensity while leaning strongly into an acoustic sound, and finally, “Endorphinia” has an eerie kind of drone going on for it which leads us outwards into the oblivion that lies beyond the confines of this musical journey. It’s almost like it hints towards something. Sadly nothing ever happened as this was the band’s only album.
Endorphinia distinguishes itself through being exceptional on every plane. It is truly a masterpiece of music – a veritably unique one as well. From the way it is composed and planned out, through all of the instrument choices and their respective tones, along with the crazy good production value and all the post-production magic make it into the megalithic work of art that it is.
Discussing this album on length and in tedious detail with a good friend, we pondered on how deliberate this musical effort was. We reached no clear conclusion, but it’s only one of two options. One would be that it’s a fluke and the members sort of stumbled their way into this entire combination through a series of coincidental happy accidents. The other option is the obvious one, where the band is comprised of musical geniuses and they wanted to make an absolutely massive statement.
Regardless of how it all came to be, it’s an enrapturing experience. It almost transcends what one would think is possible to attain through the medium of sound, further proving that sound is capable of a level of expression which we still cannot see the bounds of.
Every time I look back at the record, I can’t help but feel a longing for more of such a thing. I have yet to come across anything, and as I hit play again I rest assured, knowing that even if there will never be anything close, this still exists and that’s absolutely fucking amazing.
Toni 'Inter' Meese
I’ll make this short, since my pal Robert already described the album and its quality in detail, so just let me tell you:
Sometimes, the unknown adds to the greatness. Follow The White Rabbit started out as a mathcore band, and my first contact with them was on the great Mech Organa compilations. Between all the other bands on there, FTWR wasn’t necessarily outstanding or unique, but a cool and promising underground band. Two years later, I noticed that this little Russian mathcore band released a new album called Endorphinia, and the artwork intrigued me. Something was telling me that this wasn’t the band that I knew before. A different kind of act was emerged, and boy, was I right.
It’s not really possible to explain or describe to someone unfamiliar with it how Endorphinia feels or sounds, you have to experience it for yourself. Blessed with one of the greatest vocal performances I’ve ever heard on an album, the record unfolds into mesmerizing conceptual depths, blossoming into comforting darkness, unnerving chaos, and stunning reflection. Just listen to it. Words aren’t enough. Listen.
What are your thoughts on/experiences with Endorphinia? Are you a fan of Follow the White Rabbit, and if so, what’s your favorite album, er… song of theirs? Do you have any records you’d like to recommend for inclusion in A Scene In Retrospect? Leave it all in the comments if you feel like sharing!