While The End Complete may be an album that sold very well in its day, and is fondly remembered as one of the band’s better albums, to me it’s always listened like a pale imitation of the successes Obituary had before it. It’s the sound of a band running into a creative brick wall as they attempt to replicate their older albums with little success, resulting in a mediocre and redundant effort that signalled the start of an incredibly long barren stretch in the band’s discography. It’s a totally uninspired (and uninspiring) album that offers nothing to challenge the listener at all, whether they’ve heard their older albums or not.
The End Complete is very much a stylistic replica of Cause of Death, which is what holds this release back. While that certainly isn’t a bad formula to copy (though Slowly We Rot is the superior of their two genuine classics) the execution leaves something to be desired. The same style of Celtic Frost-inspired brutal, tense, atmospheric and mid-tempo death metal is attempted here, but the band does not have any fresh riffs to put into the songs or any new and interesting ideas or song structures to progress their formula, and what results are 9 inferior and redundant retreads of what the band had done before. The songs here never challenge or excite the listener by doing anything beyond alternating between boring mid-tempo riffs and slightly less boring faster riffs over and over; there are no curveballs here to speak of. None of the riffs are really ear-grabbing or interesting (certainly not nearly as much as past efforts) and the band can’t even get by on aggression alone as nothing is performed with much intensity or vigour. When the band speed up the music develops some kind of pulse but the mid-tempo drudgery that defines a lot of this makes the album very boring to listen to on the whole.
Quite amazingly, given that the preceding two albums are some of the most atmospheric OSDM albums ever recorded, this thing has no atmosphere to speak of – a consequence of the lacklustre material being delivered in a tired-sounding way. The band simply go through the motions here and deliver an uninspiring take on what should be a foolproof formula; even those who haven’t heard Cause of Death would find this to be a severely underwhelming and also-ran album. The production doesn’t help either, with everything sounding remarkably quiet and soft. There’s no low-end to the sound at all, the drums sound like plastic and have no real impact, which is a shame as the drum performance here isn’t bad; it just has to complement substantially inferior material. The guitars meanwhile sit in the middle of a lot of space with a tone that isn’t terribly thick or distorted. It makes the music sound more tired and stale than it already is, as well as even less heavy or intense than it could have been. The production woes combined with the lack of good material and performances makes for music that sounds very meek, which isn’t a word I’d ever thought would describe a death metal album. The only aspect that really holds up is John Tardy’s vocal performance; his distinctly disgusting, high-pitched puking growls that are splattered all over the music are as strong as they were before.
The End Complete is a creatively stagnant bore of an album that offers nothing to actively engage the listener. At best it is death metal-flavoured background noise, or something that sounds like the work of a third-rate Obituary clone. The band do nothing to further their sound here, it’s as if they tried to make this sound as mediocre and same-y as possible. Amazingly, their following album World Demise is a step up from this; at least something new was attempted there, even if it doesn’t always work – this meanwhile sits in their discography like Cause of Death‘s malnourished, deformed twin. There is nothing of interest here, move along.