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Review: SWARM – This Is The End (EP)

Winter is in full swing, the holidays are over, and a new year has begun. What better way to enter the cold, dark weeks ahead than to immerse yourself in the hellish heat of SWARM’s newest EP, This Is The End. Brandon Carroll, the mind behind SWARM, has a track record of uber dark mid-tempo productions set in nightmarish sonic environments. This Is The End represents a culmination of his dark vision into a cinematic and thematic body of work.

The journey begins with the opening track ‘Precursor’ which, as the title suggests, stands as a summation of what’s to come. A distorted voice plays out a monologue describing somber feelings towards an old lover while heavy rainfall can be heard in the background, conjuring images of a shadowy figure sitting alone in some sort of desolate abode. It soon becomes clear that whoever this man is, he is broken and he is tormented; most likely inflicted by personal demons and a toxic love.

Not until my second or third listen through did I realize that the monologue in ‘Precursor’ actually references all of the song titles in the EP, and I think it may also do so melodically, as the track seems to showcase many different sounds that I hear throughout the EP.

My oldest and dearest friend
It’s been far too long
Where did you crawl off to?
I’m fading
I miss seeing you when I wake up
I still hear you singing me to sleep
Why did I ever leave you?
I feel so alone
You are an abomination
You fill me with fear and hate
And a quiet feeling that nothing was going to be okay
It was beautiful
It kills me
Maybe I just pretended to love you
Nevertheless, I know that after all we’ve been through
This is the end.

This Is The End seems to be a fusion of Carroll’s favorite genres and musical influences, wrapped in the characteristic style of SWARM. In ‘Alone’, one of my favorite drops on the EP occurs soon after the one minute mark, and it features insane Industrial stabs that are tightly wound with the heavier bass synths that you hear during the build up. Whenever ‘Alone’ plays I can’t help but nod my head in time with those ruthless bass synths. And then we have ‘Fear’, which is a faster-paced track featuring some adrenaline-inducing Hardstyle a little after halfway through. Towards the end of ‘Pretend’ we are gifted with an ungodly drop characteristic of what you’d hear in a Metalcore song. All of these multi-genre elements are cloaked in the darker tone of SWARM so it’s almost easy to miss them, but once I realized how unique each track was I began to really appreciate Carroll’s versatility.

My favorite track on this EP is ‘Pretend’. There’s something about the cold, almost sociopathic statement “I’ll pretend to love you”, followed by some of the heaviest drops on the EP, that make me feel like jumping out of my chair and moshing around my room. This is actually the song that I think best brings SWARM’s story and character to life. We’re basically entering the psyche of a man tormented by past experiences, to the point where he’s kind of created a weird mental duality that seemingly contradicts itself. At one point this man seems remorseful and guilt-ridden over the loss of a lover, but this soon devolves into hate and resentment possibly due to the hurtful, reciprocal actions of said lover. In the end, we are left with a cold, bitter, and confused individual who is fed up with their current state of being. What happens next is a mystery, but what we do know is that… This is the end.

While so many producers are focused on churning out singles and crowd-pleasers for their live shows, it’s extremely refreshing to find artists that are trying their hand in some genuine storytelling. It is even more satisfying when the artist accomplishes what they set out to do and manages to actually resonate with listeners on a raw emotional level, just as SWARM has done. There is an eerie, reluctant relatability to the dark nature of this story and character.

Contrary to its title, This Is The End sounds more like the beginning of an epic artistic journey, and I’m excited to see the direction Brandon Carroll is headed. Stream SWARM’s new EP on Soundcloud or Spotify. He also did a Q&A video prior to releasing the EP which is worth checking out before you listen.

 

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