If you followed the Steamhammer/SPV roster closely back around the early 2010’s, chances are good you came across Germany’s The Very End. Formed in 2004, the band released three albums between 2008 and 2012 that took elements of death metal, thrash, and groove metal with vocals that had a little bit of American southern swagger to them. It was a mixture that worked well, bringing a European meets American vibe that was aggressive with plenty of groove, but following Turn off the World The Very End would fall quiet for almost a decade. This year they make their return with Zeitgeist, with two new members in place and a sound that emphasizes a bit more melody than before.
The band certainly hasn’t lost any of their aggressive tonality and heaviness but compared to their previous albums there’s a lot more melody present in the songwriting. Where Mercy & Misery and Turn off the World felt a bit compressed and oriented towards being as down-tuned and forceful as possible, here things are better balanced and the way the melodies soar over this chugging foundation reminds just as much as 2000s era melodic death metal as it does groove metal. The Very End does a good job of shaking this up from one song to the next, sometimes doubling down on the death metal and thrash elements with faster and heavy hitting riffs before transitioning over to slow-burning grooves and softer guitar solos. It’s a nice mixture of old and new for this group, and when they nail this immense yet atmospheric sound on songs like “Truth & Tremor” and “Anechoic” it’s likely to draw in a diverse range of listeners. However, while the first three quarters or so is firing on all cylinders and providing you with some killer grooves and hooks, I did find that Zeitgeist peaked around “Anechoic” and the remaining songs after that just didn’t grab me in the same way.
No matter where The Very End has gone stylistically over the years, one element that’s always impressed me is vocalist Björn Goosses. Originally known for his work with Night in Gales, Goosses’ range has been an asset for both bands and that continues to be true on Zeitgeist. Following instrumental opener “Teratoma”, “Light the Lows” comes roaring out of the gates with lower growls and singing that heads into much higher ranges during the choruses. This approach is likely to still bring a lot of melodic death metal to mind, but the harsh and clean pitches rarely stay the same and there are subtle differences on almost every track. The aforementioned “Truth & Tremor” even has some anthemic rock type choruses that fit in well with the rest of the material, dodging the weak or out of place singing that sometimes occurs with crossover between rock and metal.
Although the album does feel just a tad bit long and runs out of steam slightly by the end, there are still plenty of great songs on here that will draw listeners in and the band should be proud of what they’ve achieved here. Where The Very End leaned more into straight heaviness and aggression before, the injection of a bit more melodeath type riffing integrates well with their base sound and pushes their ideas forward. It’s a strong comeback and one that hopefully will result in even more music in the not so distant future, as I see even greater things still to come from this new lineup. Zeitgeist is available from Apostasy Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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