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The End of Silence

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  • I hope the rock world doesn’t forget what a lightning bolt this album was “back in the day.” Released a little after Nirvana’s _Nevermind_ and Soundgarden’s _Badmotorfinger_, it was just about as much a defining piece of the “grunge” movement as these two classics. It was also Rollins’s first money-maker, as it was put out by a major label, giving he and his band the production values that they had always lacked in the indie world.

    For these reasons, this puts _The End of Silence_ at a thrilling precipice, the one between Rollins’s manic catharsis of his demons and his success to come. In a few words, Rollins’s paranoia and rage never sounded as genuine after this. He put out a few decent albums after this (those which have the same nucleus as this version of the band–Sim Cain and Chris Haskett: _Weight_ and _Come in and Burn_), but he never sounded as RAW again. And punk underground values being what they are and were, this is the best-recorded document of the truly wild Rollins.

    This is also when his band got absolutely tight, going between intense riff-rockers like “Grip” and mind-melting jams like the incomparably angry and schizoid “Obscene.” The band only got better musically from here, as evidenced on the previously-mentioned releases (and the band is the main reason to listen to the latter-day Rollins before he fired his original players). Here, on _The End of Silence_, though, we have the complete emergence of a world-class “rage rock” act, full of monstrous chops and full-tilt out-of-control angst on Rollins’s part.

    So this was the more or less plain-spoken classic of the beginning of the grunge era. Where Kurdt used Rimbaudian poetic indirection and Chris Cornell & Co. opted for Sabbathy apocalypse, Rollins just came out and screamed about what frustrated him (“I’m so confused/ Can’t find the line/ Between what I use and abuse”–”Obscene”). He continues this approach often to this day, but it’s hard to believe it any longer. It probably just keeps him in his penthouse for another year to put out an album where he’s toeing that line. I can still listen to _The End of Silence_ and believe that he’s preaching the angry blues here to save his life. Since the music matches this sentiment from start to finish, it felt revolutionary in ‘91. Now, well, it’s indispensable for those times when you just gotta punch a wall, right up there with _Master of Puppets_ and precious few other heavy albums.

    Posted on December 3, 2009