ENDON- Through the Mirror
To say that ‘Through the Mirror’, the second record from Japanese experimental collective Endon, is a challenge is something of an understatement. This a group that use self-hatred and homemade machines to create what they have referred to as “catastrophic noise metal” and perform it live with legendary intensity. You simply aren’t ready for this.
There’s not a second to prepare before the test begins either. Opener ‘Nerve Rain’ doesn’t build to anything, it just… arrives, a wall of “fuck you” noise screaming for you to leave, daring you to make your escape. And it barely relents for a full five minutes. It’s like the red mist given a sound. It’s like an explosion in slow motion. It’s like sticking your head in a full-speed jet engine… And it’s glorious.
Somehow this noise doesn’t annoy. If you can hold on as the initial shock wears off (admittedly a big if) it’s alive and imposing and extraordinary. It becomes hypnotic. And as this album goes on an on and on, deeper and darker, it only gets better. ‘Pensum’ pivots between scalding punk rock and delirious static shock, ‘Postsex’ starts like a horror movie and ends in squealing feedback, and ‘Perversion Til Death’ is worth listening to for its drum squall intro alone. There’s so much to unpack here.
There’s a geographic precedent for all of this of course, fellow countrymen Melt Banana and Merzbow have pushed boundaries and blurred lines for decades, but connections can be drawn to all manner of international acts- Converge (whos guitarist Kurt Ballou earns a producer credit here), Mike Patton, Aphex Twin. And really, there’s such a wide, vicious streak of originality here that Endon will only scorch the fingers of anyone attempting to put them in a box.
There is fleeting respite. ‘Torch Your House’ starts with silence and swells like classic post-rock while ‘Your Ghost Is Dead’, the most ‘normal’ thing here, pitches and whirls like world class screamo. But then, almost as a knee jerk reaction to a song that was deemed consumable enough to, gasp, warrant a music video, Endon unleash ‘Born in Limbo’. It’s a writhing, jazz-fed, acid bath of a song, complete with Taichi Nagura screaming like killer and victim at the same time, and it scrubs away any hints that Endon could ease.
That idea, of the group exploring structure and melody only to chastise themselves with ever harsher noise, runs on a loop. Somewhere inside the grind of ‘Perversion Til Death’ is a fuzzy Nirvana riff and on the title track they occasionally blow the dust off a shimmering guitar tone only to bury it almost immediately under a landslide of noise. Repeat listens will no doubt reap further rewards.
That a record capable of coming stickered with a health and safety warning could be so immediately striking yet deeply rewarding is impressive. That it might just be in contention for album of the year seems impossible… but it’s all true.