Upwards of Endtime - s/t 3/5

Reviewed: 4-14-06


1. Conquerors
2. Phantom limbs
3. Battlefield
4. Hellnight
5. I am legend
6. Stairwell to hell
7. Jerhume Brunnen G
8. Dead to me
9. Wish it all away
10. Upwards of Endtime

Let's face it: The metal marketplace is both highly congested and highly compartmentalized. In the power metal genre alone, literally dozens of overlapping offerings are unleashed every month, many of them bearing at least superficial similarities to each other. Indeed, the very raison d'etre of this website is to aid the discerning metal fan in distinguishing the more worthy releases from their less meritorious counterparts. Given this staggering glut, it is both refreshing and admirable to see a new American band come along with the courage to step outside the circle and do their own thing, without regard to what is trendy or popular.

Connecticut's Upwards of Endtime are just such a band. On their newly issued, self-released, self-titled debut platter, the band largely eschew the Blind Guardianisms, Kai-isms, Maidenisms, Priestisms, and Manowarisms that are so prevalent in today's metal music scene. In their place, Upwards of Endtime offer up 43 minutes of what can be best described as a hybrid of doom/stoner metal a la Pentagram, St. Vitus, Cathedral and The Obsessed, on the one hand, and kult, adored-in-Greece acts like Manilla Road and Brocas Helm, on the other. (That's not to say that this CD is impervious to today's true metal clichés. For example, in opener "Conquerors", the lyrics prattle on about "true sons of metal" and "protectors of steel" who are "storming the castle walls.") The guitar tone is fuzzed-out and sludgy, and the bass lines rumble along in true Sabbath tradition. Meanwhile, Phil LNU's vocals are characterized by that distinctive Ozzy tone, also sounding reminiscent of the guy from Pentagram. But just when you think you have Upwards of Endtime's sound pigeonholed, they uncork a curveball like "Battlefield", a 2-minute uptempo, filtered-vocals number sounding more like a punk track than Iommi & Co. Another surprise is "I am legend", one of the only songs to feature the classic metal gallop and epic guitar melodies that are so dear to my heart.

The entire package has a DIY, warts-and-all vibe to it. The cover art is a rudimentary black ink drawing on a white background. There is no CD booklet, just a double-sided card with no lyrics, minimal credits and no photos. The production is murky and ragged (perhaps intentionally so), with various instruments undulating higher and lower in the mix like some hypnotized jack-in-the-box under the influence of seriously mind-altering substances. In "I am legend", for example, all the other instruments fade out early, leaving the drums to stand alone hammering away on their own until the song ends. Obscure B-movie soundclips pop up from time to time at the beginning of songs. The curiously titled "Jerhume Brunnen G" commences with an a capella vocal bit that bizarrely marries a barbershop quartet to a sailorman's hymn, before busting into an almost Slough Feg (The Lord Weird) arrangement. Upwards of Endtime are obscure, they're unpredictable, and they don't seem to care if any of us "get it" or not.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid that few members of our community will "get it". Some will dismiss it as too "kult". Some may not be able to get past the unpolished, greasy garageness of the thing. And others may just brand them a stoner band and be done with them. But all of these rationalizations sell Upwards of Endtime short. There's more going on here than initially meets the eye. This debut CD includes some undeniably strong songs, it doesn't follow a formula, and it has its own character and personality. At the end of the day, Upwards of Endtime may not play my favorite style of metal, and they may not be up to the technical/production standards of many 21st century heavy metal releases, but they offer a nice diversion and a worthwhile palate-cleanser to break up my otherwise steady diet of traditional, power and true metal. Besides, with a little searching, one can easily locate new copies of this CD for less than $5. At such a ridiculously low price, why not give them a try?




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