It didn’t take long for Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes to look beyond the ferocity of their 2015 debut Blossom. Carter and his guitar-slinging partner in crime Dean Richardson branched out with conscious lyricism and diversified songwriting on 2017’s Modern Ruin. Where that album used severity to serve more melody, End of Suffering all but leaves behind the band’s hardcore roots.
Carter and company embrace their accessible side without treading the usual hard-to-soft path of many rock bands. In spite of its lack of guttural intensity, the band leaves its mark with quality songs and personal lyricism.
It’s clear from the crunchy blues rock riffs and plodding beat of “Why A Butterfly Can’t Love A Spider” that Carter has little use for high-voltage rock and roll. Reverberant strains and dynamic rhythm changes replace bashing breakdowns, allowing Carter’s lyrics to take the lead. “When I’m high I’m in heaven/ When I’m low I’m in hell,” he sings in striking candor. “Heartbreaker” also puts catchiness over intensity. The primitive beat and down-stroke guitars remain stripped back, more like classic British Invasion than hardcore punk.
It makes sense that Tom Morello would feature in “Tyrant Lizard King,” an appraisal of the corrupt politicians. His undeniable grooves and soloing play well against the song’s Third-Man-Records-style blues rock, servicing the song rather than overemphasizing his contribution. Similarly, “Latex Dreams” brings The Dead Weather to mind with a dark atmosphere, syncopated riffage and haunting melodies. Carter’s narrative of trying to salvage a failing relationship carries much more weight with the real world context of his divorce.
Hopeless romanticism isn’t uncommon in downer blues tunes, but Carter’s dejected cynicism permeates “Love Games.” Lo-fi drum loops and trippy synths emerge from the earthy acoustics, but the core of the song breaks down to rustic piano chords and Carter’s raw, tangible voice. This brutal honesty increases the bite of cuts like “Anxiety,” providing compelling grit within a hook-driven context. “There’s a better place for you and me/ Where we can be happy,” he sings, acknowledging his struggles with mental health while remaining hopeful for a better future.
“Crowbar” recalls old-school Muse, but The Rattlesnakes bring a harder edge through lyrical venom and a blood-pumping blues rock shuffle. Fuzzy guitar licks have plenty of flash and bash, but angrier passages like this make it hard not to miss the band’s savage past. An extra dose of adrenaline would have been a welcome addition to the thick, distorted chords, forlorn singing and a simple half-time beat of “Angel Wings.” This is where Carter’s storytelling keeps things interesting with a remarkable of metaphor and intimacy: “To climb that gentle ladder to the sky/ And fall back down/ On Angel wings/ On feathers made of diamond rings”
“Supervillain” drives themes of identity and uncertain morality with sticky riffs and distinct keyboard crescendos, but it’s “Little Devil” that truly brings the nostalgia. Its main riff sounds eerily similar to Weezer’s “Beverly Hills”—or any early 2000s rock song. Some tasty licks spice it up, but these deeper cuts highlight the danger of throwing out originality out with rawness. End of Suffering doesn’t quite escape the tropes of its new direction, but it has a healthy counterbalance with emotional relevance and unfiltered execution.
End of Suffering ends with its title track, an acoustic ballad of warm guitar strumming and mournful piano chords. It actually ends with a sample of what sounds like a conversation between Carter and his child, where he’s heard saying, “it’s complicated.” Those are fitting last words for an album centered on change both for the music and the musician. Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are more streamlined than ever, and risked losing some of their original appeal in translation. The lack of instrumental viscera is generic at times, but Carter carries the album with relatable lyricism and convincing passion.