Explosions In The Sky Return in Harmony on Epic, Driving End
The Texas band’s first album in seven years resonates like echoes from the past while also ushering in new, bold creative pathwaysMusic Reviews Explosions in the Sky
The Kings of Crescendo, Explosions in the Sky, continue their near quarter-century career as instrumental rock legends with End. Seven is the magic number—as this album comes seven years after their previous record and contains seven songs. The comeback resonates like echoes from the past, highlighting the signature sound that led them to success on records like The Wilderness and The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place. The musical resurrection delivers across all fronts, spoon-feeding longtime fans with longtime sounds and new, thoughtful sonic concepts.
It’s a team effort on End. The four-piece from Texas create and perform in such harmony that the cinematic music they make ebbs and flows so effortlessly into epic, driving and gorgeous climaxes that’ll give you goosebumps. If End doesn’t make you feel every inch of the emotional spectrum—from happy to sad—you may not have a pulse. As you listen to the record, you’ll envision your own short cinematic movie playing simultaneously in your head; you’ll watch your protagonist struggle, face adversity and overcome it across the runtime.
“Ten Billion People” and “Moving On” yank us back into the Explosions In The Sky universe, serving us with some of the more upbeat offerings on the album. The band’s formula is present, as if they’re itching to welcome an old friend back into their orbit. The two tracks remind us that, after a seven-year wait, Explosions In The Sky are still the unquestioned leader of their specific craft (with all due respect to Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai)—with powerful and cathartic post-rock soundscapes that manipulate dynamics through masterful instrumentation.
Nothing is heavy-handed on End. A tip of the cap is necessary to the production team—John Congleton (who produced, engineered and mixed this dense record) and Bernie Grundman (who mastered it)—because the sonic shine is immaculate and the whole project’s hidden strength. As we sit down for the main course of the album’s meat, we’re met with some new concepts from the quartet. Long, extended bass solos and decadent piano serve as the lead instruments, slowing the band’s world down. Things get poignant, and sounds get profoundly moving. On “Loved Ones,” especially, the tightly coiled spring is released with a massive detonation even by Explosions In The Sky’s standards. Meanwhile, “Peace or Quiet” has its own emotional volcano that erupts while maintaining, up to this point, a sense of positivity and conclusion.
There’s anguish to be had on the back half, as the frustration-drenched “All Mountains” and “The Fight” struggle out in the open for us all to hear. Guitars squelch and twirl and distort and wander; these forceful emotions—coupled with the first half’s more positive sounds—create a swirling ball of beautiful sounds for your ears to follow.
End is its own living organism, adapting to its surroundings and experiencing grief, anger, perseverance and the “end” to some things. Still, End never loses its overarching sensation and feeling of optimism. After 24 years of output, the Texans didn’t just come back to the studio because it was “time” to make an album—they clearly experienced their own ends and ups and downs and wanted to take the concept of that finality to a place that words just can’t explain. The result is a deeply satisfying experience, one where you’ll almost let out a sigh of relief when it’s over because it’s just so breathtaking.
Without ever uttering a word for 25 years, Explosions In The Sky have said more than enough. However, by adding End to their catalog, they’ve profoundly expanded on an already incredible career. End should be the playbook for any artist who wants to balance giving fans what they want while growing their creative craft almost three decades in. The album, ironically, finishes on its most anti-climactic song, “It’s Never Going to Stop.” Within those final eight minutes, the four-piece patiently weaves through the darkness—with the lead instruments passing the torch to one another on a darkened path. The sound they pioneered has had numerous imitators and admirers; it’s morphed into post-metal (Neurosis and Russian Circles) and appeared across electronic genres from Jon Hopkins to Tycho. But there is, indisputably, only one Explosions In The Sky—and, hopefully, there is no end in sight for their career.
Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, Sam Eeckhout inhales music and has been writing about new albums passionately for years. He believes in creativity, challenge, and lifelong learning. When he’s not discovering new music or jogging, he is watching baseball. He believes that this year, along with every year, is the Toronto Blue Jays year. You can find him on Twitter at @soundscribbler.