Label: A389 Recordings
If Endless Descent was to be described in a single word, it would be: RIFFS. What Junior Bruce have created here is a beast of sludgey, heavy riff-centric metal, full of untamed power that cuts right to the heart of all that is good about the fusion of stoner and sludge metal. Much like the artwork, it’s hardly pretty, but nor is it trying to be. Telling a tale of the demonic underworld consuming all of humanity, it feels a bit like the musical equivalent of a good quality action movie: there’s no need for subtlety, it’s all about the riffs/explosions, and Junior Bruce absolutely deliver.
Down-tuned and cloaked in fuzz, Endless Descent is one of the heaviest albums to be released this year, with a sterling production job striking the right balance of hard edges and accessibility to properly benefit the music contained within. Early on, it has the effect of making almost every single riff and lead feel more powerful and exciting than the one before, giving the album a very energetic, addictive character. Much like bands such as High On Fire, Weedeater, or Black Tusk, Junior Bruce make their songs seem so naturally well-crafted that it feels as if they have been drawn from the aether rather than penned by human hands. Add in a few moments that are cinematic in scope, such as just after the halfway point in “Of The Deep” when a guitar line follows the vocals, and it makes for an album that is very primal in character and strength, without ever feeling bone-headed.
This primal nature and bloody-minded devotion to the power of the riff is both the strongest and weakest aspect of Endless Descent. As hugely enjoyable as it is, it’s hard to deny that there’s not a huge amount of variety between most of the songs, and the predominantly shouted vocals, whilst powerful and suiting the music perfectly, don’t have much variation over the course of the album. It means that, if the album doesn’t strike you in quite the right way, Endless Descent can end up feeling a bit one-dimensional, and whilst it’s great as a whole, it can feel like a struggle to differentiate between some of the tracks. I can’t help but feel that placing the Interlude track earlier in the record (rather than as the seventh track) may have helped with this, as would a greater use of dynamics. That “Night Hag” and opener “Lapis Philosophorum” both feature wonderfully slowed-down, almost psychedelic mid-sections that contrasts well with the other, faster tracks on the album makes them the highlights and the most memorable songs on Endless Descent.
Even so, there’s no denying that Junior Bruce have written an album which demonstrates their mastery of super-heavy riffs, and it’s hard not to get swept along with their raw, primal power and obvious enthusiasm, and the first half of the album is an absolute rush of adrenaline and headbanging. If they could add a touch more variety in though, then the next record could well be something special.