When it comes to music, I like to think of myself as something of a scavenger. I have spent many a Saturday scouring the local pawn shops for hidden gems casually discarded by people who were either tired of the album or didn't realize what they were getting themselves into when they purchased it. "Apollo Ends" was one such gem.
Unfamiliar with SCULPTURED's recorded output, I purchased this album on the strength of the label and the vaguely pretentious song titles. My reasoning was that at the very least, I would end up with an amusingly unlistenable mess of Avantgarde wankery and only be 3 dollars poorer for the endeavor. What I actually ended up with far exceeded even the best case scenario, which I hadn't really thought of.
The cascading wall of sound that SCULPTURED produced on "Apollo Ends" was then and, in most regards remains even now, peerless. From the impeccable performances of the musicians involved, to the cavernous arrangements of the songs, the album drips with class and skill.
Leadoff track "Washing My Hands Of It" gives us our first taste of the unusual riff style that dominates this album. Utilizing harmonies that seem almost out of place, they create a heavily contrasting tone of despair and, for lack of a better description, light heartedness. I really cannot give context to this odd dichotomy of sounds. On the one hand, the tone of the music is generally fairly despondent, but the guitars work against this by providing a much brighter harmony than would be expected, making the experience all the more unsettling. Add to this equation some jarring horn arrangements and dual growling/clean vocals, and you have a truly breathtaking song.
Let me state for those unfamiliar with this band, that by Dual vocal styles, I don't mean to indicate some kind of Melo Death/Core type of sound, as this band inhabits a kind of speedier, jazzy space to the left of Doom Metal. Right, moving on...
Track two, "Above The 60th Parallel" continues the level of quality set by the first. Of special note is the bass guitar, an instrument that in most bands seems happy to back the guitars in an unobtrusive manner, slinking around both busily and audibly beneath the music. As with the other instruments, it seems to find a corner of the song to sit back do its own thing, being both a singularity as well as an integral part of the whole.
Track three is "Snow Covers All". This track, along with being the highlight of the album for me, is also a highlight for the previously mentioned guitar harmonies, with the verse riff being particularly indicative. The growled vocal rides one of the most oddly matched guitar riffs I have ever heard. This bouncy sounding riff serves to punctuate the harsh vocals in a way that a grinding blast beat could never do.
"Between Goldberg" comes next, and try as I may, I cannot seem to not think of that 80's throwaway "Eye Of The Tiger" during the chugga-chugga portion of the intro, which is odd given that the two really sound nothing alike. Perhaps this speaks volumes about me, or maybe about the nature of the music. Either way, it is reasonably creepy. "Apollo Destroys, Apollo Creates" is an instrumental that starts with 5 minutes of reverb-laden guitar squall before settling into a vaguely Proggish seague that dissolves into some nice cleanly picked guitar.
Track six is "Song To Fall On Deaf Ears". This song is easily the most conventional sounding of the lot, at least until the horns come in at . The song then continues with the theme set by the earlier sections of the song, contrasting the harsh and clean vocals along with the more conventional structure until the shift at the 3 minute mark, when the clean vocals take over for a very ARCTURUS-like portion of harmonized singing. The song spends the remainder of its running time alternating between Thrash-turned-sideways-and-slowed-down and sounds more typical of the earlier parts of the album.
Finally we have "Summary", which is exactly that. 38 seconds that seem to capture what the album is about and provide the perfect closing to a near perfect album. The only complaint I can level at the album is that the production, while crystal clear, is not quite as powerful as one would like. A minor complaint that does nothing to lessen the impact.
Summation: One of the most difficult and adventurous albums before difficult and adventurous was all the rage with the kids.