Endstille- DetoNation (Album Review)

Aug. 22, 2023


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A lot of bands release music at a consistent pace early on, but as they get into their first or second decade that rate can slow.  This is especially true in Endstille’s case, as from their formation in 2000 until 2013 they released a staggering eight full lengths with some coming out every year for a period of time.  The German black metal band’s approach stayed consistent, going for a more punishing and fast paced approach with some punk edged riffs and subtle variations.  Following 2013’s Kapitulation 2013, their second with new singer Zingultus, it seemed like Endstille was on target again for another album within their usual one-to-two-year span but they would end up being quiet on the recording front for a decade.  An album was announced as far back as 2015 but later scrapped, with this year’s DetoNation ending that long gap.  Once again offering up a blitzkrieg of fast paced guitar, bass, and drums alongside some slower breaks, Endstille still hasn’t strayed far from their core sound but have made some subtle variations that make their individual tracks stand out a bit more.

The last few Endstille albums had fuller, beefier production values, but DetoNation returns things to the rawer end of the spectrum.  Compared to albums like Dominanz the drumming doesn’t pop out quite as much, but it’s still one of the most prominent elements alongside the layers of guitar.  The bass pops out during specific moments but serves as more of a low-end detail, and it feels like the band has found a natural middle ground between the styles of their earlier efforts and more recent ones.  Opener “New World Lethargy” makes it immediately clear that the group has retained much of their core approach, coming in with blasting drums and harsher riffs that pummel the listener with ease.  But after the first few minutes or so those familiar icy melodies come in, and it’s these types of subtle shifts during the blasting that has always drawn me to Endstille’s music.  The drums let up ever so slightly, and the guitar and bass work together to create a desolate soundscape that pull you in.  DetoNation makes effective use of these transitions, with songs like “Destined to Silence” and “Victorious” finding that perfect balance between brutal and haunting, hitting listeners hard and then letting them bleed out as the ominous melodies expand outwards over top of them.  Compared to some of their past efforts it does feel like there are more mid-tempo passages and other riffs that break things up, and this goes a long way in giving quite a few of the tracks their own identity.  Some of them do still run together over repeat listens and DetoNation also suffers from the issue that a lot of Endstille albums have, which is that the longer songs overstay their welcome.  “Vigilante Justice”, “Victorious”, and “Endstille (Weltkrieg)” all run past the six-minute mark and while they have some interesting ideas, they all drag at certain points.  It doesn’t completely derail the material, but it does result in some lulls in between some very strong peaks.

I really like Zingultus’ work with Nagelfar and Graupel, but he didn’t quite click with me on Infektion 1913 or Kapitulation 2013 compared to former vocalist Iblis.  That opinion’s changed with DetoNation though, and this feels like the Endstille album where his raspier screams fit the best.  Compared to the high shrieks of Iblis, Zingultus has a grittier and lower pitched scream that fills out the low end a bit more and that works well with the overall sound on the album.  “Tochnit Aleph” switches things up a bit, with the screams giving way to some spoken word and chanted passages around the three-minute mark.  You also get plenty of spoken word on closer “Endstille (Weltkrieg)”, which continues the band’s trademark of ending their albums with a song that contains their name in it.  There are slight variations to the screams and growls on DetoNation that keep the performance feeling fresh throughout the album, and songs like “Vigilante Justice” showcase just how Zingultus can shake things up.

I’ve been waiting quite some time for more Endstille to materialize, as albums like Navigator, Endstilles Reich, and Verführer are ones I return to regularly.  DetoNation does have some songs that run together and the longer ones drag, but it comes close to some of the band’s stronger efforts and has plenty of passages that will stick with listeners over repeat listens.  It also serves as a good starting point if you haven’t experienced Endstille’s type of blasting black metal that bludgeons even when throwing in some melodies, and with this album now finished hopefully we won’t have to wait another decade to hear more.  DetoNation is available from Ván Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg