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The End

One can't say for sure whether Montreal's The End went into the recording of Within Dividia intending to make a sort of metal-core answer to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, but that's pretty much what it turns out to be, impressively enough. Don't get too excited: People who loved Neutral Milk Hotel's great indie yawp but who don't already have affection for metal-core will not find their conversion experience here. In the Aeroplane . . . was willfully beautiful, but Within Dividia, like metal-core in general, thinks the whole concept of beauty is due for a painful makeover. The comparison is one of scope rather than style; the high-volume ship-in-a-storm stop-starts will no doubt narrow the listening field some, as will the screaming vocals, which, over the course of the album's 33 minutes, hit exactly zero real notes.

Yet people who've been watching for the last few years, as metal-core has outgrown its little-brother clothes and come surprisingly into its own, will hear Within Dividia as nothing short of a shot across the bow. The fury of Philadelphia's Lickgoldensky, the dynamics of Neurosis and the raw skill of your average jazz-fusion combo here merge in one great, pissed-off frenzy of pyrotechnical bliss.

The End's previous effort was marred by a palpable infatuation with its own weirdness; one came away from it also remembering the Primus-damaged bass parts. Within Dividia doesn't bury these tendencies entirely. It just sublimates them in menacing lulls and paint-peeling bursts. A threat's as good as a promise, though: With the climactic "Of Fist and Flame," all the wheels come off, and the drummer shows off the impressive new cymbals kit he got for Christmas. Le wow, they might or might not say in Quebec. There may be a standard chord buried somewhere in the glorious morass of Within Dividia's swampy depths, but you'd be hard-pressed to locate it.

Why do metal labels routinely release such obvious year-end candidates in January? Who cares? Savage, complex and gorgeous, Within Dividia has an immediacy to it that almost makes up for its impending invisibility.