End of Mankind are a five-piece black metal band from France that emerged from the ashes of Eternal Majesty. End of Mankind released their first full-length Faciem Diaboli just one year ago in November 2019. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the band was forced to cancel a planned tour and promptly used the break to go back to songwriting. Just seven months after the release of their debut, they entered the studio again, and the resulting record Antérieur à la Lumière is now ready to be unleashed on listeners, just in time for the second wave of lockdowns across Europe.
When I first started to play the record and checked out the metal-archives page of the band, I was confused to see that someone categorized End of Mankind as post-black metal. After the intro track 1957, album opener Temporary Flesh Suite did not show any hints of post-influences, instead coming right out of the gates swinging, with a good old club of traditional black metal in an angry fist. Tremolo picked guitars, thrashing blast beats, a very solid black metal vocal performance, and smart and varied songwriting that mixes in punk attitude and riffs to keep the track engaging. The first hint of things to come happens shortly after the halfway point of the track, when a short instrumental break gives a breather, right before the final onslaught of the song.
A similar mix is to be found on most of the other songs as well: 90% extremely well written black metal with punk influences, 10% hints of a more somber post-black metal. This mix shifts towards post-black and experimentation towards the end of the record, with a jazzy saxophone (or trumpet?) in track 7 Opponent Deity, and the beautifully epic Step Towards Oblivion as final song. So in the end, we have 6 full songs, plus 3 tracks that seem to be there mostly to pad the running time towards the total of 39 minutes: Track 1, 1957 is a spoken word intro that sets the stage. Track 5, Géhenne, is a clean instrumental interlude that serves well enough as a break. Also track 9 Le Boël is a very atmospheric instrumental track, but it feels a bit tacked on at the end of the record though. I can only assume that the short time after their debut album did not give them more material, but to be honest, none of the songs feel rushed or badly written. The songwriting in all of these tracks is damn good, there is always a nice flow to the parts, every riff has a purpose, every break is earned. The performances by the musicians is on point too, and the melancholic atmosphere of the record spiced up with plenty of anger feels honest and really sticks with the listener.
If it were up to me, I would maybe throw out the intro and outro tracks, even if that would only result in a 34 minute record. But those 34 minutes are damn well written, performed and presented, and worth the time of every black metal and post-black metal fan! Hard recommendation for everyone to blast this on their stereo while they stare out of their windows longingly, waiting for a light to come at the end of all of this bleakness that is 2020. Antérieur à la Lumière …”prior to the light”. Enjoy.