Finnish duo Endless Forms Most Gruesome explore death in a landscape of sludge, death metal, and doom on their self-titled debut album.

Release date: April 3, 2020 | Inverse Records | Bandcamp | Facebook 

Wielding their grim, self-titled debut, Endless Forms Most Gruesome have burst forth from Finland’s womb. Consider this: in the middle of winter, people in this part of the world might only see daylight for five hours per day. All that darkness would probably wreak some havoc on your mind – I imagine thoughts of life’s futility, the inescapable, lingering knowledge that death is inevitable, and general nihilism would become so much more vivid, especially when that small amount of daylight probably passes you by as you work a job that you, quite frankly, can’t be bothered with any more. Gloomy, right? And that’s what Endless Forms Most Gruesome feels like – paralyzingly dark, with very little warmth, light, or joy. This is some depressing, relentless sludge metal. And my morbid ass is so on board with it.

Endless Forms Most Gruesome kicks off with a screaming wall of distortion from behind, which emerges an almost beautiful guitar line, like waking up from a nightmare to realise you’re safely in bed with the moonlight streaming through the curtains. This sense of relief and security is brief, however, and soon shattered by “The Watchers”: its hard-hitting riffs sitting heavy on my chest, like a fat black cat choking me with its fur. Shimmering, oily ambient guitars coat this dour soundscape, chilling in their simplistic beauty.

The almost black metal-inspired “A Thousand Years In Hell” is a standout track for me – unholy dissonance meets floating lead work, sending shivers down my spine and thighs. Its chorus is dismal, its post chorus almost even more so, and guess what? There is no light on this track. It is dark, cold, and persistent. “A Thousand Years In Hell” implodes, and all that is left is a deliciously stoner fuzz guitar, squeezed so tight the fuzz seems to be its condensed energy waiting to burst out. When this finally happens and the whole band kicks in, the expansion is a delight, but somehow still absolutely crushing. A wisp of clean tone appears almost like a ghostly figure behind the blanket of distorted guitar, growled vocals, and pummeling drums.

The two things I particularly like about Endless Forms Most Gruesome are the drumming, which is simple when it needs to be, and subtly complex when it can be, and the lead guitar writing. These guys know how to make melodic playing evil, I tell you that. On top of this, the vocals, while predominantly harsh, are very intelligible, the lyrics filled with morbid musings about death, ways it could occur, and what might come after it. The flow of the album is also well thought out, alternating sordid slow-paced tracks with more driving ones, so the similarity in some of the riffs doesn’t become too tiresome. There’s a lot to like about this album, but somehow, I wasn’t convinced by it during my first listen. I got most of the way through it thinking it was good, and that it had some really fantastic moments, but overall – I just wasn’t in love with it. I needed its final track to be something amazing. And then “Free Fall from Womb to Grave” happened.

Holy balls, what a track. I don’t want to over-praise here, but this is one a damn good song. It opens with a gorgeous clean guitar line, soon joined by drums, a simple bass line, and – surprisingly and awesomely – a mournful cello melody. “Free Fall” goes full doom with a harmonised riff that turns into a fat unison stoner stonker. The vocals become bathed in inky delays, a layered guitar drips bloody tears onto the crepuscular chorus. We get given an almost droney section and lovely, mournful chords, before a lovely clean guitar takes us back to the intro. The cello is joined by a viola, and soon makes way for a brief guitar solo. The backing chords here are extremely pleasant, and unexpectedly consonant. Doom returns with a simple riff, guitar layers intertwining over the top, vocals despairingly sad. So much happens in the ending minutes of this track that all I can do is sink into its soft, cold embrace, and let it happen. It’s so miserable, and beautiful, and somehow this combination becomes twistedly uplifting, in an ‘I’m gonna die one day, and I’m looking forward to it’ kind of way. I didn’t want this track to end, and I love it every time I hear it.

Okay, I think you get it – this album is dark as shit, obsessed with death, and so freezing cold your skin would fuse to it if you touched it for too long. Each song explores these three aspects in a different way. It’s like waking up from a nightmare over and over, only to discover you’re still asleep, and each song drags you deeper into sleep paralysis until you can’t be sure you’re even alive at all. Endless Forms Most Gruesome does get a little bit samey, especially on the first listen – it grew on me the more I listened to it, the more I allowed myself to get drawn into its dreary embrace. Endless Forms Most Gruesome create terrifying scenes out of doom, sludge, and death metal, the harmony as crunchy as the guitar tones. It’s an incredibly solid debut, and I look forward to hearing what other macabre offerings Endless Forms will bring forth in the future.

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