Sound — 9
After earning accolades for its debut record VS. Life, Germany's The Very End has returned another record worthy of even more praise. Mercy & Misery doesn't necessarily make waves by being overly aggressive, but rather it's the arrangements that catapult The Very End to a whole other level of musicianship. While the entire band is integral in crafting the songs, guitarists Rene Bogdanski and Volker Rummel are the focal point time and time again. Even if there is a song or two on Mercy & Misery that may be lackluster at its core, the Bogdanski-Volker team make you believe that's far from the truth with their inventive compositions. Before one metal lick is even heard, the instrumental intro Memento showcases seamless and beautifully executed acoustic work. Eventually a subtle-but-effective electric lead is dubbed over and the two instruments intertwine, often in unexpected ways. It's a relatively short and sweet song, but it's one of the most compelling tracks on Mercy & Misery. Following Memento is the groove-heavy Ball and Chain, which emphasizes the vocal chops of Bjrn Goosses. Although his screeching yells pepper the verses and most certainly grab your attention, Goosses is at his best with his traditionally sung style that bears a strikingly resemblance at times to Mushroomhead's Jeffrey Nothing. Throughout the record there is a little of everything in terms of classic guitar riffage. Pinch harmonics, Dimebag-like grooves, power chords, and neoclassical shredding are all in abundance. What makes it all the more unique is that you can actually hear Bogdanski and Volker's emotional delivery behind it all. Highlights include the insertion of Spanish acoustic within the very metal Rat Nation, the careful phrasing on Dead is the New Alive (we forgive the cheesy title because of the arrangement), and the dark riffage that begins and ends Letters to the Living. One has to mention to two tracks that even with all the creativity happening otherwise will garner the most attention. The first is The Very End's cover of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song, which is fairly faithful but incorporates a much heavier dose of metal. The same is true with the band's cover of the Flashdance hit Maniac, which plays up the electric guitar element with satisfying results.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrical content certainly takes a more serious approach for the most part, with plenty of personal introspection and reflection on imperfect relationships. There are dark moments, certainly, particularly in 309 (The end is the beginning is the end; This world is going down againno hope to spare). Throughout, the band does incorporate some interesting metaphorical ideas be it Ball and Chain or The Leper. To top it all off, the band proves it isn't afraid to show it's lighthearted side by placing Maniac as the closing track (it was, at least, at the time of this review).
Overall Impression — 9
If you're someone who relishes in guitarists who allow classic riffage to take the forefront while the ho-hum chugging is almost nonexistent, you will absolutely appreciate The Very End. While not every one of the 13 tracks is immaculate, in terms of the guitar element they come pretty close. The band might even want to explore the possibility of doing more acoustic interludes (or electric for that matter) in the future, as the instrumental Memento was easily one of the standout tracks. The covers are not necessarily mind-blowing or all that different, but it's always interesting to hear how Jimmy Page's work sounds with a metal twist.