Endo is a band that changes its sound dramatically from one album to the next. The band's previous album, Evolve, was a fairly uneventful rap-rock offering, but on Songs for the Restless, a collaboration with Red Hot Chili Peppers producer David Schiffman has resulted in a no-less-aggressive, but more contemporary, alternative sound.
The change already appears to have paid dividends, with first single "Simple Lies" featured on the soundtrack to the blockbuster movie Daredevil. Its irresistible chorus and melodic intensity melds influences such as System of a Down and Bush to produce a crunching, radio-friendly anthem that no doubt helped cement Endo's place on this summer's Ozzfest tour.
So far so good, but this highpoint notwithstanding, how does the change in style impact on the band over the course of a full album? Well, although Songs for the Restless offers little that a post-nu-metal scene hasn't already heard, the distinctive vocal style of lead singer and songwriter Gil Bitton helps make for an engaging listen.
"For You" follows in the same vein as "Simple Lies" and confirms the band's shift in style once more, while "Remember Us" is a powerful song which reveals Bitton's position as part fragile Morrissey figure and part screaming nu-metal rocker. "Shame" demonstrates this vocal style again, backed by a crisp, piercing production that seems to accentuate every tortured word that spews from Bitton's mouth.
The album gets its title from the severe insomnia that plagued Bitton during the making of the album, and which inspired some truly dark and personal revelations in his lyrics. Therefore, tracks like "Madness" capture Bitton's intensity, insecurity, and vulnerability all in one, setting a raucous riff against such affecting lyrics as "Madness / Madness / What if it's genius?". Slower songs, like the acoustic-based "Circles", seem to aptly reflect the disengaged state Bitton frequently found himself in while writing and recording this album.
It's a nakedness similar to that displayed by Justin Furtenfeld on Blue October's recent release, History for Sale, and although Endo's new style is hardly innovative, the honesty, raw emotion, and feeling contained in every song really separates Endo from their contemporaries.
It's not perfect, though. A number of songs tend to lack the standout hooks of "Simple Lies", with "I Won't Die" drowning in a sea of inescapable depression and weighed down by the sheer aggression of the delivery. "Ruckus" suffers from a similar fate, and it's left to the excellent "In Time We'll Fall" to rescue proceedings, with its atmospheric vibe, controlled aggression, and soaring chorus emphasizing that when Endo are good, they are very good.
Ultimately, changing styles on your second album makes that familiar sophomore slump seem inevitable, but, on Songs for the Restless, Endo have dodged that pitfall. It was a bold move to ditch a trademark sound, and thanks to Bitton's captivating delivery and writing, the Miami quartet has managed to avoid becoming another generic modern rock group shifting styles for commercial gain.