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The End (2013)
Rating: 9/10

Unless you are a diehard fan of off the beaten path music, Norwegian Andy Winter is likely not a name you’d recognize. If you do follow the outer fringes of extreme music however, you’ll quickly recognize Winter from bands like Winds, Sculptured and Age Of Silence.

Known as one of the most experimental and interesting musicians in the extreme realm, Winter now releases his first proper solo album which feels almost like a The End Records compilation. The album features members of Madder Mortem, Agalloch, Green Carnation, Star Of Ash, November’s Doom, Winds, Arcturus and Ulver, as well as Dan Swanö (Nightingale, Bloodbath) and Mike Young (The Devin Townsend Project). If that weren’t enough, Travis Smith created the artwork for the project.

As the collaborators are in some of the most intense bands on the planet, it’s of little surprise here that this album is themed and performed in a very intense fashion. The album opens with the semi-soulful, semi-gothic, completely dissonant dynamics of ‘Reversed Psychological Patterns’. The seven-minute plus drama features the amazing voice of Agnete M. Kirkevaag of Madder Mortem. It’s back and forth haunting is almost draining.

Hedi S. Tveitan brings life to ‘Far Beyond Autopilot’, a tune that starts out with an almost shoegazer style lack of fare before building into a bigger, hook-riddled song that nearly steals the show. But it’s the powerful ‘Somewhere Else To Disappear’ that takes everything over the cliff. Featuring the mighty Dan Swanö, it’s a dark lurking beast that clinks, clanks, and clunks its way into your psyche with its beauty and the beast guitar work and dynamic, stirring vocals.

With only eight songs in tow here, it’s hard to misstep. But the one misstep we have here, in my opinion, is ‘Perfection Is The Blank Page’ featuring Kjetil Nordus of Green Carnation, Tristania and Trail of Tears. The song never really gels and because you can’t sink your teeth into it at any point, it’s hard to get excited about coming back to it.

The production on the album lacks a little as well. What could have been a big, meaty, monster of an album comes off as an alternative-minded, under-budget gem. This may have been entirely intentional, but I would be interested to hear it with a little more grandiosity behind it though.

Overall, this album has nearly everything I love about the early The End Records bands and their albums. This is incredibly creative, wildly interesting from start to finish, and unlike anything that is out there now. If it is innovation and experimentation you are looking for then you owe it to yourself to check out Incomprehensible (and then dig into The End Records’ back catalogue).

Mark Fisher

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