ALBUM REVIEW: Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes – ‘End of Suffering’

8/10

Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes – 'End of Suffering'

Inspired by the Buddhist term for enlightenment, “End of Suffering” is Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes’ third studio album. “End of Suffering” is both a demand and statement of intent in reaction to an already tumultuous world that has evolved or regressed, since “Modern Ruin” was released in 2017. Not only does the album reflect the turbulent state of society at large, but it also serves as a manifestation of the last two years of Carter’s life, which has been equally as unsettled. At its core, “End of Suffering” is a lyrical manifestation of the band’s growth; not because Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes achieved nirvana, but instead it is an invitation take their hand and head towards enlightenment together.

For fans of the raw and unfiltered albums Modern Ruin and Blossom, the opening tracks of End of Suffering are four more frenetic punk anthems, that have been refined and sharpened. The drumbeat in the first bars of the first track, Why a Butterfly Can’t Love a Spider, emphasises the aching sincerity behind Carter’s lyrics, in a better way than the guttural, screaming vocals found in his previous albums. The first sign of growth and self-improvement from the frontman.

Tyrant Lizard King embraces a grungier, distorted sound. The rallying drumbeat continues on from track one, and throughout the album, inciting resistance and rebellion, akin to a war drum. Just because the phrase End of Suffering comes from Buddhist ideology of enlightenment, does not mean that it’ll come without a fight. Tom Morello features as a guest guitarist on the track, further cementing its statement as a resistance anthem. Many believe that rock’n’roll has become nothing but a corporate, money-making machine. Sometimes, a Tyrant Lizard King can be a music executive or producer, and sometimes it can be the president. Either way, it’s clear to see that Carter will not let himself become of that machine and instead continues to fight against it.

All’s fair in love and war, and it is in Carter’s latest album. Heartbreaker is a fast-paced love song about being in love with someone who changes and challenges you. Though Carter and the Rattlesnakes have pushed themselves to break away from their previous sound and take their music to new sites and heights, lyrically the album has some catching up to do. Whilst catchy and easily memorable for large crowds, lyrics such as ‘when I close my eyes and see you smile/I feel love, love love’ in the third track Heartbreaker fall into the category of cliché.

The first single released for End of Suffering; Crowbar was inspired by the Paris riots. With its head-banging inducing rhythm and liberal use of the word ‘fuck’, it’s no surprise that this was the song Carter chose to drop first. Crowbar is rife with the aggression that can be found in Blossom and Modern Ruin but has been sharpened and honed. This is not a song that is angry for the sake of being angry, but rather it is a Molotov cocktail of anarchic zeal and passion.

Reminiscent of Amy Winehouse, Love Games rings with familiarity. Though Carter is clearly singing his truth, and reflecting on his past relationships, once again the lyrics find themselves in the realm of cliché. Whilst End of Suffering as a whole is a stadium worthy cri-de-couer of change and resistance against the current state of the world, Love Game is a song we’ve heard before. Whilst distortion and use of piano provide some sense of reinvention, I wish Carter would have pushed harder to find something new to say on the topic of love.

Just like in real life, Anxiety creeps up on you.  The slower tempo will undoubtedly become a festival anthem once Carter descends in the European circuit in a few months. With a haunting quality similar to The Pixies, the song’s resonating theme of searching for happiness is the start of a tonal shift in the album. In Angel Wings and Supervillain the bleak yet poetic lyrics continue. Instead of wrestling with the wider world, or a romantic partner, Carter enters the ring to face a more challenging component: himself.

Latex Dreams sees Carter take this grunge-lullaby style back in the direction of romance. It’s a song which succumbs to the tropes of rock star interpretation of women and relationships. Singing songs about ‘triples on the rocks’ and hurricane-esque women wearing a ‘little red thong’ doesn’t really challenge genre conventions.

After the dip in pace, Kitty Sucker is one last injection of punk rock into the album. A direct address letter to his ‘punk rock queen’. Though sex and rock‘n’roll are two parts of a very clichéd phrase, it is finally that Carter begins to chart an original exploration into relationships. It is now, on track ten, that I get the impression that Carter is singing about his own marriage, rather than writing lyrics that could apply to anyone.

In its penultimate track, Little Devil, Carter chooses to return to the lizard and snake imagery that is found in Tyrant Lizard King— only, the Little Devil in question is not a music executive or producer, not even an insufferable politician. It’s more personal, closer to home, on your shoulder and making sure you’re ‘never on your own/ even when you’re alone.’ Like Kitty Sucker before it, Little Devil is another reminder from Carter and the Rattlesnakes that even though they may have lost their unfocused anger and have grown up through fatherhood, they are a band dedicated to creating honest punk rock. It is a promise that Frank Carter and Rattlesnakes are still a band that has the energy to create rock albums that will find their place in music history.

To say that End of Suffering begins with a bang and ends with a whimper is not to say that the eponymous final track is the weakest. After 36 minutes of layered guitar riffs, a handful of cliches and anarchic zeal, Carter’s haunting vocals against a stripped back guitar, piano and drums pulls you away from the psychotropic grunge lullabies and back into our seemingly bleak reality. But upon arrival, you are left with a souvenir— a recording of a conversation between Carter and his daughter, which culminates in Carter asking her, ‘what’s complicated?’

And with the wisdom only young children are capable of possessing, she replied, ‘Nothing’; reminding us that no problem, no matter how all-encompassing it may seem, is too complicated to be solved when you dare to ask for help. As message that Frank Carter is all too eager to make sure that his fans understand.

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