In April this year, when Explosions in the Sky announced their first North American tour since 2019, the excitement was matched with a sense of worry that it would be their last as it was billed as “The End Tour”. Their latest album, End, could easily add to those fears. However, the band quickly dismissed it, and it was not their final studio album. In addition to working on End, the band is currently working on a score for an undisclosed television series that will hit the airwaves in 2024 to alleviate those fears further.
Having formed in Texas in 1999, Explosions in the Sky shot to prominence with their 2003 release The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place before cementing their place in the public consciousness by taking a lead role on the Friday Night Lights film and television series soundtrack.
Known for their guitar-centred instrumentals and intense live shows, the latest album from the Texan quartet continues to evoke emotions with finely crafted, contemplative instrumental scores. End was inspired by darkness, by pondering life and death. The band states, “Our starting point was the concept of an ending – death, or the ending of a friendship or relationship”. As a result, the record’s haunting feel is reminiscent of their earlier albums but sees the complex texturing and experimentation of their later works shine through.
Opener “Ten Billion People” builds quietly and slowly before expanding, helped on by an intricate yet determined performance by drummer Chris Hrasky. Moving On sees the guitarist trio of Michael James, Munaf Rayani, and Mark Smith intertwine delicate riffs on a track that fluctuates in tempo throughout.
“Loved Ones” offers a haunting feel with keyboards playing a leading role, before one of the band’s famed quiet-to-loud structures is again presented through “Peace or Quiet”, which explodes to life during the final quarter of the song having had a gentle, relaxing build-up. “All Mountains” seems to evoke a more positive, accepting outlook than many of the earlier songs on the album. The increased tempo and airy guitar riffs help to provide an aspiring feel.
“The Fight”, perhaps unsurprisingly considering the title, offers a confrontational feel with guitar effects and synthesisers combining to unnerve and add to the combative soundscape. The final track, “It’s Never Going To Stop”, brings the story arc to a close by presenting a light, accepting mood to finish on. The song brings together the delicate keyboard notes, intricate guitar riffs, and focused drums heard across the album to reach the record’s culmination and emanate feelings of positivity and hope.
End sees Explosions in the Sky further underline their credentials as rock’s finest instrumental band with another offering of deep, emotive tracks. Although exploring endings, it feels like the band are far from done and will continue to evoke emotions long into the foreseeable future.