Despite over a decade of existence, Japan’s self-described “catastrophic noise-metal” outfit ENDON has largely eluded the attention of the broader Western underground music community. This began to change in 2016 with the stateside release of their 2014 album MAMA and tours along the East and West Coasts. Given the West’s fascination with Japan’s permutations of punk, metal, and noise, it’s unlikely that any band that has been frequently bestowed with the designation of “the most extreme act in Tokyo” would remain under the radar for long. After all, Japan gave us the unmitigated sonic abrasions of Masonna, the nihilistic fury of GISM, and the cataclysmic lurch of Corrupted, so any band that can somehow further push the envelope is destined for notoriety.
And notoriety was certainly a factor in ENDON’s early years, when singer Taichi Nagura terrorized local audiences with stage behavior so violent and menacing that people began actively avoiding their shows out of fear for their safety. Nagura insists that the outbursts were “not intended to be against the audience at all,” but admits, “during the early days of ENDON, there was a lot of fighting between the audience and me.” ENDON no longer takes out their aggression on bystanders, but their caustic blend of power electronics, harsh noise, gale force hardcore, and dissonant metal implies a kind of violence even more foreboding than a stray punch or a whipped microphone. With their most recent album Through The Mirror, ENDON galvanizes their arsenal of ballistic sounds into a streamlined assault on the senses. Captured by Kurt Ballou at God City Studios, Through The Mirror fuses Taro Aiko and Etsuo Nagura’s dual noise barrages, Koki Miyabe’s alternately harrowing guitar work, Shin Yokota’s pummeling drums, and Taichi’s animalistic howls and shrieks into eight songs that vacillate between molten blocks of viciously constructed metal and chaotic bouts of unbridled auditory hostility.
Through The Mirror opens with “Nerve Rain”, an exercise in punishment through repetition, with a series of sustained guitar chords being ruthlessly battered beneath blizzard squalls of contact-mic distortion, piercing modular synth drones, and thundering toms. It’s a powerful build-up to the explosive fury of “Your Ghost Is Dead”, wherein the band distills the chaotic energy of ‘90s cult hardcore bands like One Eyed God Prophecy or Honeywell and supplements it with added layers of misanthropic scuzz and grit. “Born In Limbo” pits Andy Ortmann-esque sound collages and inhuman vocal manipulations against a backdrop of gothic twang and kinetic drumming. Side one closes with the double punch of “Pensum” and “Postsex” where truncated hybrids of hardcore rage and black metal velocity serve as a springboard for Taichi’s lyric-less communication of the album’s “Anti Bildungsroman (anti-building romance)” concept through guttural bellows and horrific screams. If side one serves as an exercise in propulsive unrestrained attacks, side two is a study in sustained, strategic warfare. The spacious crawl of “Perversion Till Death” allows the flanking noise artists to saturate the mix like a hail of fire and stone. Title track “Through The Mirror” builds off bedrock of primitive punk and gradually opens the scope of the song with melodic electronics and Nagura’s funeral wails. Sublime desert drones open the finale “Torch Your House” and guide the band through a nine-minute journey of exotic melodicism and triumphant stomp-and-crush riffage.