Some records take you back in time – technically all records do – but some are oddly specific. The late 90’s was a halcyon period for heartfelt emotional hardcore, and before the term ‘emo’ became a derisive insult it was a phrase that, to this writer at least, meant bands like Time Spent Driving, Texas Is The Reason, and The Get Up Kids. This style gets a bad rep for lots of reasons, but hearing Endless Heights‘ new record transported me back to driving my band around in my Ford Sierra in 2001; the world was new and all was well.
Vicious Pleasure is the bands second proper full length, coming as it does after the backwards hat of New Bloom and the heaving, mournful EP Teach You How To Leave. Recorded live over 12 days at Jungle Studios in Sydney, the Heights say they took a different approach to both the recording process and the writing, which shows. While earlier material like Mosaic and Love Will Keep Me Whole are well-handled emocore, the simmering frailty of opener Taste It presents a whole new feel to the band.
Single You Coward is significantly weightier than their previous works, a feat accomplished by a production that gives the tones space to bloom. I got the sense that EH have deliberately gone for width over density, though the favouring of single coils might have something to do with it. Singer Joel’s voice is more assured, more definite than on their older material, and this fresh restraint lends the new songs more grandeur.
What is truly evident as the album progresses is that this change in the writing process has brought out something thus far unexplored; there’s a welcome ‘off’ element to songs like Shiver Down and Toxic, the latter sounding almost like a different band, though one that’s evolved from a prior form. Bigger drums, a confident sneer in the lead work, and the broadening of EH’s sound has made a massive difference. The excellent video that accompanies Come A Little Closer is in sharp contrast indeed to tracks like Honest Life, which look more like Broken Teeth performances than anything Thursday might have done.
Here’s the thing; over the course of their output, Endless Heights have refined their template until it’s become perfectly rendered and conjuring songs about emotional outpouring is second nature. Vicious Pleasure differs because they’re genuinely evolving. Certainly, Pray I Fade and Goldleaf hark back to Whisper and Alabaster, but even here there’s a rough elegance hitherto unrealised. Yes, there’s familiar melodies synonymous with the genre, but for a band to move forward from a sound honed over an 8 year period is no small feat, and one of which these Australians should be justly proud.
The greatest shock comes in the pairing of gentle ballad Paralyse and raw falsetto-cannon Run. Confident arrangements, a greater sense of composition and Joel getting dug right in show a willingness to abandon the past and become something else. Around the 2 minute mark you can hear their wings unfurling, and this older, wiser band soar away from who they’ve been towards to who they are. Their press release says the whole record is about looking in the mirror and being brave enough to own your flaws, and a more accurate musical synopsis for this double whammy you couldn’t find.
Closing on Heart Of Your Lie, this album feels less like a collection of songs and more like a personal milestone. Now truly wearing long trousers, Endless Heights have done a bang up job, and considering where they were even 4 years ago have grown drastically. I couldn’t shake the thought that staying on this trajectory would yield a truly blazing follow up, and being so chuffed with a record that you’re excited for the next one is a sturdy compliment.
Huge, alive, open and honest, Vicious Pleasure is a great record. If you’re a fan from back when, wear a helmet to keep your brain in – your boys done good.
Vicious Pleasure from Endless Heights is out February 16th! You can pre-order it HERE!