As Means End states on their Bandcamp page, they are a “progressive metal band, based in Stockholm, Sweden,” and like “guitars tuned low, jazz, and a lot of things happening at the same time!” After listening to their LP, The Didact, that sounds like a pretty accurate description. However, it’s a little lackluster and could describe pretty much any band you can possible think of in this scene, and I think they forgot a very important word: “operatic.” There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes with The Didact than meets the eye, but it takes a keen ear and a swift delve behind the audile layers to really put it all together.
Means End, was completely unbeknownst to me until about two days prior to the drop of The Didact. It was then that a friend of mine showed me the song “Nox Aurumque,” and I was enthralled from the very beginning. I needed more, and The Didact did not disappoint; the first couple songs are very much an entity of their own; “Candle in the Dark,” “Omega Barrier,” and “Aeronaut” showcase quite a bit of synth… or strings… or choral backing vocals and harmonies. Whatever they are, they’re unique and add a layer to the music that completes the songs with a distinct signature. That same synth is scattered throughout every song on the album, but eventually starts to fall into the background and creates a backing layer that finds it’s own space amongst the full band. “Crimson Interloper” is the song to pay attention to here, though. Why? Because when I say Means End is “operatic,” the last minute or so of this song takes “operatic” to a whole new level. THIS is what could really make Means End a completely different and distinguishable act amongst their peers. Some might find it gimmicky, others might think it tacky, but it’s different and that’s what counts.
Right around the time “Prometheus” kicks in, things start to get a tad generic. Heavy guitar riffs strewn throughout the remainder of the album are somewhat reminiscent of Meshuggah (“Sun Wukong”) and Vildhjarta (“Lied Von Leid”), and some clean/ambient passages are very TesseracT-esque (“Mourning Star,” “Arbiter of Time”), and a few of them sound like a conglomerative love-child of the three (“Magnanimous”). Although there is quite a bit of harking to the scene’s giants, it’s Means End’s operatic vocal sections and eerie Silent Hill sounding synth layers that stamp the signature on everything. Admittedly, the vocals are not for everyone, but if you’re willing to give them a chance they’ll really grow on you.
An important note to take into consideration here is that you can’t listen to just one song from The Didact to really understand Means End. I personally found this apparent when comparing what I initially heard in “Nox Aurumque” to the rest of the album as a whole. There are moments in this that you’re going to hear things you’ve already heard, but the moments that you catch something unique and new are worth every second of this album. Means End has huge potential to really develop a sound of their own with the palette they’ve assembled; operatic vocals, massively melodic chord progressions, and unique synth based counterpoint are just a few of the more vibrant colors on that palette. I can only hope the next installment pushes the “opera” envelope even further.
Stream and buy the full album here: http://meansend.bandcamp.com/