There's something to be said for bands that get right to the point. Literally within the first ten seconds of "11th and Arch", Philadelphia's How it Ends lets you know exactly who they are and what they're about. And on their second album, Beloved, How it Ends is all about the heavy. Heavy guitars set just how i like my coffee - heavy on the grind.
For those that have heard How it Ends' first album So it Shall Be, you'll be happy to know there's a new vocalist in town. What's that? You loved the band because of Ross'* vocals on the first album? Well then, you just loved the band for the wrong damn reason, dintcha? Gone is the done-to-death (no pun intended) guttural bullshit that can take the mightiest band and reduce it to something as memorable as a Matchbox 20 song. While always wearing a hardcore heart on their sleeve, How it Ends takes it one step further with Todd* behind the mic, with a shout straight outta the 1987 NY Hardcore scene that winds up doing the music a whole lot more justice.
Now, since the inception of heavy music, very few bands have known how to get the right drum sound, and sadly the sound of Beloved is no exception. Remember that real tinny firm-pillow sound of the bass drums on the ...And Justice for All album? Same problem here. This was the reason 'tallica stopped using Rasmussen, folks. Now, I'm not saying How it Ends needs to get Bob Rock on speed dial (Christ forbid), but it's a problem they and most heavy bands of today need to address.
The other main thing that needs addressing is lyrics. There's a stigma out there that fans of heavy music by and large are stupid. This is reinforced by one of two ways: by watching fan interviews on a Slayer DVD and by reading the lyric sheet of 94% of heavy bands, including this one. I know, I know. "Hey asshole, I like the lyrics. They have something to say. They speak to me". Well, that's because your little sister had to read the "big words" to you, Tolstoy.
Just because the music's about aggression, it doesn't mean it has to be dumb. But what's maddening is the slightest deviation from this and it's "groundbreaking." That's why the ass-hat from Korn is considered a genius because he whimpered about his uncle touching his bathing-suit area. And last I checked there's nothing groundbreaking about empathy. When it comes to this, we don't need a slight deviation. We need a revolution. How It Ends has the chops, the skills, and the heart. They just need to smarten up a little and trust that maybe, just maybe, their listeners aren't stupid.
* I don't know about you folks, but I find it hard to trust a band that only divulges their first names. It's like they're in some sort of hair-metal witness protection program.