Everybody sit back while I make this album seem way more complicated than it really is…
London, England act End of Level Boss is many things, and yet they are not. In many ways – thick riffs and hard driving rhythms – they are a metal band. Yet their vocal melodies and general swagger put them more into hard rock terrain. They are what their Facebook description says – King Crimson meets Kyuss – and yet so much more, also containing Seattle elements (heavy grunge and/or upbeat Melvins punch), a good amount of latter-day Faith No More, and even bits of The Outer Limits-era Voivod. The KC traits add a progressive flair, but there is nothing conventionally “prog” about their music; no noodling or shredding. Perhaps most notable is that while full length Eklectric will cause cranial explosions among the genre-definition-obsessed, it is a smooth-as-silk listen that should (and God willing will) appeal to a very wide range of both metal and hard rock fans.
The funny thing is, once you’ve listened to Eklectric a few times, you’ll stop hearing any of those influences and just hear End of Level Boss. This is a band with a distinctive sound and a ton of collective chemistry—that perfect balance that only comes from musicians playing together for hours, days, and weeks on end. Each member finds time to shine, but never at any cost to the song. Guitars typically switch between heavier stoner riffage and more spaced-out passages, while Peter Theobalds’ dancing bass helps to maintain melodies through all styles and moods. Vocalist H. Armstrong is one of the two stars of the show, doing a John Garcia-by-way-of-Mike Patton thing while showing real skill in melodic and rhythmic delivery. As for the other star, well…
Not enough can be said about the job done by drummer Neil Grant, who has a real talent for the heavy-jam skinsmanship perfected by greats such as Dale Crover, Matt Cameron and Jean-Paul Gaster. There are many passages on Eklectric in which the drumming acts as both rhythm section member and lead instrument, telling a story on its own while the guitars and bass either meander into spacey territory or maintain a continual set of melodies. (The riff-heavy intro to “Senescence” is an ideal example.) Plus, the man understands that a hi-hat has a foot pedal on it, and boy oh boy, does he make use of it, to glorious effect.
Luckily, End of Level Boss isn’t just some seasoned set of top-notch session players, but also has a keen sense of how to arrange a track. Each song stands strong and unique on its own while also creating an album that is more than the sum of its parts. This disc absolutely flows through dynamic, percussive, and hugely rockin’ jams that are crafted for maximum addiction. From the multi-sectioned (“Senescence”) to the in-your-face (“Thud”), each is a highlight. So while Eklectric may not have that one obvious centerpiece or bona fide classic, it has nary a dull moment over its 54 minutes.
The band’s dynamic skills are constantly on display as well, with most songs featuring some sort of crescendo. Amongst the more pronounced builds are opener “As The Earth Forgets Us” and “Thee Absurd.” The former begins with a light poly-rhythm between the guitar arpeggios and drumming (that implied prog) before eventually finding its way into heavier, faster grunge metal territory. The latter starts with airy sustained notes, and over the course of five minutes works its way into a thick jam complete with wah solo. Much of the quality on Eklectric comes from that oft-mentioned band chemistry, but the crescendos and natural transitions are by design. A perfect pacing of the album also ensures that when each track comes up it is exactly what the listener seems to need.
Because its been so long since metal-yet-not-quite rock music of this ilk has really been glorious (the alt-metal heyday of the 90s), some listeners may be reluctant to give this a chance. Well, don’t be. End of Level Boss is the real deal, and Eklectric should have massive crossover appeal for everyone from the Badmotorfinger-obsessed and fans still holding out for a full Kyuss reunion to the Ozma-tattooed and maybe even those that worship at the Hall of the Mountain Grill. So if all of my cross-genre verbosity gets you a mite confused and nervous, stop worrying about it, because it’s all insignificant when compared to the biggest point of all:
This album rocks. Give in.