Artist: Thousand Foot Krutch
Album: The End Is Where We Begin
Genre: Rock, nu-metal
Label: Tooth & Nail
Honestly, I think I feel a little hard done by with this album. Maybe my expectations were too high on foot of the ominous, epic build up in “The Introduction” but the oddly incomplete, demo-like tracks that follow are nothing like the cinematic onslaught I was anticipating. The album is certainly good, but it has this curious, almost under-developed feel in many of the songs. They’re overly simplistic, and while there’s nothing wrong with a basic set-up, it sounds like an entire backing track is missing most of the time. The band’s output over the past 15 years has been pretty impressive however, so maybe after all this time they’re content to keep things simple and put together something raw, but decent.
There are 15 tracks on The End is Where We Begin, so it doesn’t lack for scale, but the quality of the songs differs starkly throughout. The band seems to veer between genuinely impressive, orchestral stopgaps, nu-metal style relics, and acoustic honesty. Of these types, the orchestral tracks are by far the most exhilarating. “The Introduction” seems strange at first, with an electronic disembodied voice whispering menacingly into the mike. However, the addition of portentous, instrumental rumblings in the background adds an exciting air of anticipation and builds into a beautiful guitar riff to further stir momentum. “This Is a Warning (Intro),” a bookmark in the album’s midsection, is also very good. The strings combination is jarring and unsettling. The band creates beautiful atmospheric delusions of grandeur, which makes it all the more disappointing that they can’t harness them in the actual songs. Case in point, “Courtesy Call,” which immediately follows “This Is a Warning,” destroys the elegance of its cello with lacklustre vocals. The inanity of the lyrics is irksome considering the effort they’ve made with their instrumentation.
The knock-on effect of this is that when the album begins properly in “We Are,” it can’t but sound really anticlimactic. Considering the momentous build up, it doesn’t launch with anywhere near as much impact as you’d expect. It’s more controlled and basic, with fairly simplistic riffs and hooks and steady vocals. Both this and successor “Light Up the Sky” really do sound more like unfinished demos than actual songs. The latter takes a more invigorated approach with the singing – the verses are rapped, in a decent throwback to 10 years ago – but without the layers of stringent back up it all sounds very ordinary. Title track “The End Is Where We Begin” is better. It’s still underdeveloped, but there are some added effects and it does well to create a pervasive mood even without the extra frills. I think some bombastic sound effects could have helped this realise its full potential, but this is far more adequate than the others. “Let the Sparks Fly” is more aggressive, though in an understated way. It seems less concerned with being evocative and more with an overt aural assault. It doesn’t go all-out but there is a palpable air of menace to it, aided by strong bass work to underline the sinister, shady aura.
The End is Where We Begins’s other mainstay is softer, usually acoustic tracks that tackle more introspective subjects. “Be Somebody” stands out immediately for this and despite the fragmented setup feels a lot fuller and more complete than the other songs. McNevan’s vocals are careful and thoughtful – he sings from the heart and it is indulgent, but strong too. The quickening pace seems to hint at the unease of confronting inner tumult. “All I Need to Know” and “So Far Gone” are similar in tone. I must admit that sometimes, I find this naturalistic approach to sentimental songs to be too obvious. It seems to be too token a method of making a wannabe ‘deep’ song sound meaningful and poetic. Not to imply that the songs are devoid of meaning, but the switches in tone are a bit obvious.
This is an odd album. It’s an enjoyable listen, by all means, but its structure and style are so apathetic it almost seems lazy. It has no real sense of self or any idea what it wants to be, and it is painfully disorganised and incomplete. Yet, I’d encourage you to give it a spin, for the instrumental tracks if nothing else – and if the no-frills approach appeals to you then the banal simplicity on show here should endear.
Review written by Grace Duffy