New York’s Endwell have made a valiant attempt to rewrite their own history with their third record, Punishment. Lead vocalist Sean Murphy accounted for their new direction by stating that the band had moved on, embraced a range of new musical interests and wanted to create a progressive record that would stand the test of time.
Punishment, the album, is many things. At times, the band sound like hardcore’s answer to Protest The Hero. The introductory track, “Greater Haste” sounds huge and impressive, if at times a little disjointed and rough around the edges; it works well as a sampler of what is to come. Musically, Endwell are truly in their element when it comes to combining galloping drumbeats with a rhythmic, palm-muted wall of distortion. Their desire to move away from the more classic, energetic hardcore sound is surprising when they clearly play it so very well.
The aggressive vocals throughout could be considered both one of the band’s strengths and one of the elements that holds them back from producing a truly great album. When the clean vocals break through the mix in songs like “Anxiety Bath,” “Dark Waves,” and “Forgotten Wolves,” it opens up a welcoming new side to the band’s sound, and takes away some of the inevitable monotony that creeps into songs towards the end of the record.
The lack of time allowed for the lead guitar sections in “Manson Lamps” and “Living Reverie” to develop is typical of Punishment. It seems that every great idea and detraction from their breakdown-reliant brand of hardcore is killed off by the band before it has an opportunity to develop. It is a technique designed to keep the listener on their toes, but has made this one lament the number of missed opportunities, sometimes of which there are several in each song. The lead guitar in “High Friends In Low Places,” beckoned on by supporting gang vocals, and the impressive double-bass work and the strangely appropriate rap-like sections in “Depression Party” are good examples of this.
Endwell never quite let you get comfortable. The often abrupt section changes suggest that they have fallen short of creating the perfectly flowing, progressive hardcore record, but what they have produced is a somewhat original approach to the tried and tested formula of every pissed off record. Sadly, as with many hardcore bands, there just isn’t enough vocal diversity throughout. While at times the band can produce masterfully constructed songs, peppering each of those with the same guttural vocal delivery detracts greatly from the initial excitement I felt when I put the record on for the first time.