End of Level Boss

Inside the Difference Engine

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On their second album, the English quartet End of Level Boss continue to pursue their retro-futurist brand of metal -- an odd term to use, but their overt love of digital and mechanistic imagery, further reinforced by a computer-derived title that could take in both Charles Babbage and William Gibson, often seems rooted in a stylistic place nearly two decades past. It could be equally argued, though, that the times have finally caught up with them -- when bands like Metallica and Voivod were delivering their late-'80s indictments of the military machine, the only major war was a cold one. Songs like "Selfishnegativibemerchant" and "Words Have No Meaning" aren't specifically addressing the current times, admittedly, but in the blend of crisp post-thrash arrangements and sprawling howls and soloing -- and major credit to Harry Armstrong's rather Layne Staley-ish full-bodied scream-singing, like the band overall not an original new approach but commanding listening all the way -- they've got a good place to be. Alice in Chains are admittedly almost too overt a model at many points -- songs like "Mr. Dinosaur Is Lost" and "Instinktivitus" might as well be on Dirt -- while Tool are another recurrent model. There's a more clipped kick to most of the arrangements that lends a nervous energy instead of just flat-out bludgeoning. Small touches often prove to be killer -- the gentle, simple melody ringing through the massive trudging on "Reticence," the wind-up-the-tension extended start and conclusion to "Words Have No Meaning."

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