Upwards of Endtime - Sadly never fore 3.5/5

Reviewed: 6-16-06


1. Beyond infinity
2. Dwellers of the dust
3. Circles (Reprise
4. So mote it be
5. Home sweet home
6. The one thing
7. Princeps tenebarum
8. Dreammachine
9. Defenders
10. Great goat god
11. In my wake
12. The beast
13. The gathering
14. Time again

Hot on the heels of their favorably received 2005 debut CD, enigmatic Connecticut doomsters Upwards of Endtime strike swiftly with a strong sophomore outing. Those who read the review of the debut on these pages just a couple of months ago may recall that this band are a far cry from the galloping power metal acts that are featured most prominently on this site. Upwards of Endtime opt for a much more obscure take on the classic metal sound, one that is organic and earthy, undulating and unpredictable. Describing their sound is a daunting task, as Upwards of Endtime don't fit neatly into a stylistic pigeonhole. Perhaps the most accurate characterization is that the Endtimers blend the Sabbathy doom stylings of St. Vitus and Pentagram with the cult true metal leanings of Manilla Road and Brocas Helm. There are also plenty of NWOBHM nods, a few Lemmy Kilmister-inspired bastard buzzsaw bass runs, and even the occasional organ accompaniment ("Circles: Reprise"). Tempos drift all over the map, from abbreviated adrenaline-fueled necksnappers to lugubrious lumbering-elephant doom. To enhance the cobwebs-in-the-corner vibe, there are even a couple of off-the-wall B-movie snippets introducing particular songs.

Perhaps the highest praise I can give Upwards of Endtime is that 'Sadly never fore' does nothing differently than its predecessor, but it does everything just a little bit better. Notwithstanding a change in the 2nd guitar slot and a different person twirling the knobs in the studio, the character of the band remains firmly intact, from vocalist Phil Swanson's distinctive Ozzy-meets-Wino-meets-Mike-Scalzi wail to the towering monolithic riffs to the sludgy rhythm section to the retro, basement-styled production values. The difference is that there has been an improvement in the songwriting department, as this collection of 14 to-the-point songs (covering just 43 minutes) is hookier, catchier and altogether more memorable and more "finished" than the batch of tunes on the 's/t' CD. Equally importantly, there is a certain cohesiveness, a red line running through the tracks, that reflects a refinement of Upwards of Endtime's sound and style. The songs still exude the band's disparate influences, but those influences have had more time to simmer and soak in together, melding into a sound that is uniquely Upwards of Endtime's to claim as their own. Whereas the last album included a number of "what the #$*%" moments where the band's left-field musical ideas did not seem to fit, this time the dots have been connected, and the T's have been crossed to where it all just makes sense. And the highlights on 'Sadly never fore' -- including the speedy pulverizing "Beyond infinity", the ripping "Dreamachine" and the cool riffer "The one thing" -- crush the band's previous output.

It should be abundantly clear that Upwards of Endtime are not for everybody. If your musical spectrum never extends beyond Gammaween, Stratarctica, and Iced Guardian, then please move along as there's nothing for you to see here. But if your metal tastes embrace the hauntingly obscure, positively kult strains of Manilla Road, Pentagram and such, or if you are an open-minded metalhead generally, then Upwards of Endtime may be just the breath of fresh air for which you've been searching. My only requests of the band for their next platter are to include a lyric sheet delineating Swanson's thoughtful and thought-provoking lyrics, to clean up the production just a tad, and to flesh out some of their sub-3 minute songs (of which there are 7 on this CD) to come full circle with their songcraft. For now, however, let the gasoline flow through your veins, inhale the fumes deeply into your lungs, and crank up 'Sadly never fore'.




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