Recorded at Chemical Sound Studios in Toronto, Canada in July 2005. Produced by Ian Blurton. Engineered by Rudy Rempel and James Heiderbrecht with Dean Marino. Edited by Chuck Carvalho. Mixed by Church Carvalho and Michael Amaral.
Released on Urgent Music Records, 2006.
Endorphins was a thrash/groove metal band from Toronto, Canada who split up in 2008, thirteen years after being formed, with one EP and this their first and last full-length album under their metal-studded belts.
You know they say you should never judge a book by its cover? I’m going to be honest and say that I judged this album by its and didn’t expect to like it. I’m not usually so critical about covers but I really didn’t like this one: the colours, the image, the font, even the band name. (I keep thinking it has something to do with dolphins.) Did I get out of bed the wrong side this morning?!
Biologically, endorphins (endogenous morphines) are brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters that are released during stress and pain to reduce our perception of pain and create feelings of euphoria; they act in a similar way to opiates such as morphine and codeine (which metabolises as morphine in the body).
So… which is it to be: pain or euphoria?
Well, as a gentle smack in the face to my design snobbery, it’s really not bad at all. I was pleasantly surprised. The production is solid, the four-piece are well balanced in the mix, the guitars have a full, meaty crunch with plenty of bass dialled in. The vocalist Michael Amaral has a throaty scream, but it’s controlled (like Lamb of God’s D. Randall Blythe) is it’s not just indiscriminate shouting.
Very often when I listen to a band I’ll think, “Oh, this is Godflesh meets Entombed with a sprinkling of Death” or something similar, to give me a ballpark of where it fits in the wide world of rock n’ roll. I’ve struggled to be so specific with this album. It definitely has elements of old school thrash (as well as new old-school thrash outfits like Evile) but with nu-metal and punk elements thrown in for good measure.
The open tracks “Flux” and “Welcome to my Hell” are fast-paced, get-your-blood pumping songs that really make an impact. The latter even features female vocals (courtesy of Jennifer McInnis) which brings an almost ethereal, European dynamic to it.
I’m really impressed with the songwriting on this album. The riffs are different enough to keep things interesting, and the songs are short enough to keep my attention. It’s such a shame that Endorphins split. I’d really like to have heard where this progressed to: the difficult second album.
Just over half way through the pace changes and “26 hours” (track 6) opens with what sounds like an FM radio, before a rolling clean riff and drum pattern fades in and we’re treated to something more atmospheric, more experimental. It’s more rock than metal but I really like it. It reminds me of Inverness, instrumental prog band Shutter meets Pantera’s cover of “Planet caravan”.
Interlude over. Back to the face-ripping metal. The album plays out pretty much as it began: interesting riffs, foot-to-the-floor thrashing.
Except that—and this is my first major criticism of this album—”26 hours” has a profound impact on the album. It changes the pace and feel. It’s like being gently lulled into a state of relaxation only to have a bucket of ice-cold water poured onto you as you lounge on the sofa! If anything, “26 hours” is an album closer.
Placing that track at 6/10 makes this album feel too long. And it’s not: it’s only 12 seconds shy of 45 minutes. It would even fit on one side of a C90 cassette, that’s how old school it is!
I had a similar experience with Mastodon—The Hunter (2011) when I argued that track 3 “Blasteroid” was in the wrong place. It’s funny how your perception of how balanced an album is can be thrown by even just one track.
I’m sorry Endorphins split, they certainly showed spirit, courage and promise. I guess that 13 years was maybe long enough for them to keep plugging away with ‘only’ an EP and a LP to show for it. But then, you never know what their goals and ambitions were.
Whatever the truth, their legacy is a solid metal album (with a rather dodgy cover).
Review score: 70%