In the mid-Nineties, nu-metal was a strong, fledgling genre that yielded multiplatinum acts like Korn and Limp Bizkit. By the end of the decade, however, it was frayed and worn out like a flannel shirt, thanks to all the many me-too bands manufacturing their own versions of nearly indistinguishable rapping, scratching, screaming heavy rock. True, the genre's fan base and success helped more savvy bands like Miami's Endo earn more recognition. But each new artist spit out by the nu-metal machine eventually convinced Endo vocalist Gil Bitton that it was time for a change.
"You live, you learn, you listen to new things, and get turned on by different scenes," says Bitton. Sure, the band's 2001 Evolve debut earned reviews from rock critics that lumped the band together with its less accomplished contemporaries. But those same critics also praised the group for mustering enough originality to push it past the flock, embracing strong musicianship and spontaneity, and not falling into a tried-and-tired pattern typified by formulaic songwriting and ever-present rumbling bass.
Endo, co-founded by Bitton and uni-named bassist Zelick, has come a long way since starting out as a cover band named Clockwork in the mid-Nineties. After eschewing covers for original songs, Endo became a regular across the South Florida live music circuit (along with fellow area nu-metallers Nonpoint). Bitton and Zelick would eventually record Evolve with guitarist Lou Orenstein and drummer Joel Suarez. But the latter two left the band soon afterward, clearing the way for guitarist Eli Parker and drummer Joe Eshkenazi; both joined the band five days before Endo went on a two-month stint opening for Megadeth. Then, toward that tour's end, nearly all of the band's gear was stolen while playing a show in Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room. Luckily for Endo, the tour's endorsers helped the band secure new equipment, allowing it to resume playing live shows around Florida.
The induction of a new guitarist and drummer also led to some notable, although not drastic, stylistic changes. Rather than sticking to its usual formula, Endo opened itself to new ideas on Songs for the Restless, its second effort for Columbia's DV8 imprint. Recorded over a two-month period in Los Angeles's Ocean Studios last year, the album has less rapping and more texture than its predecessor, although the band's knack for heavy aggression still lingers. The group embraces more melody on songs like "Simple Lies" while dishing out heavy-bottomed crunch on "Shame" and taking the foot off the distortion pedal and adding acoustic guitar chimes on the subdued "Circles." Meanwhile Bitton removes himself from the spit-rhyme delivery that permeated Evolve, instead going for a balance between whispered melodrama and screaming fury.
"I told myself that I was going to stop rapping," says Bitton, adding that his new listening habits opened his eyes and affected his vocal approach. "It was just not my cup of tea anymore. I told myself that I was going to sing and write the best that I could write. We don't want to stick with one consistent sound. We want to branch off.
"Why should our music have one vibe?" continues Bitton. "There are different emotions that a person has, so why not collaborate all these emotions in one and have these songs that lend themselves to these emotions? Musical diversity is important." Sure, Endo's music still thrives on the angst that its predecessor did, but in a climate of tough times, the end result will naturally be aggressive. "It's not easy out here and it comes out in our music," he explains.
And while the differences between Endo's albums are subtle, they are noticeable enough to warrant a second listen by hard rock fans who might simply write off the band as just another bunch of angry guys with an itch for loud guitars. "I think there was a little more thought and a little more of everything on Songs for the Restless," Bitton says. "Evolve was a great album and a heavy album, but it had a little too much of an industrial sound and too many effects, so [Songs for the Restless is] a total turnaround. This new one is more organic."
Though Songs for the Restless won't be released until June, this year's Daredevil soundtrack offers a glimpse of Endo's new material ("Simple Lies") alongside songs by acts like Saliva, Fuel, and Chevelle. But its most recent soundtrack spot isn't the first. Endo also landed on Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000 with "Malice," an album cut from Evolve.
So far, 2003 seems to be a promising year. While waiting for the release of Songs for the Restless, Endo landed a spot on the upcoming Ozzfest. The band's name came up as a prospect last year, but it ultimately wasn't selected, so it kept busy opening for acts like Static-X and Sepultura. "There were some disappointments, and a lot of ups and downs," Bitton says. He says that there's been so many that he "can't remember" them all. Still, he adds, "I have to say that everything that has happened has been [because of] God. This band has been blessed." Endo hopes a recent switch in management companies from Concrete Management (Pantera) to Sanctuary Management (Slayer, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest) will further help its cause. However, the group knows that its music will be the decisive factor.
"They're putting us along with those artists, but if you listen to our record, it doesn't sound like all these nu-metal bands," Bitton declares. "Not that there's anything wrong with nu-metal -- I like a lot of it -- but [our new material] branches off to a vibe of its own. That's what we're proud of the most."
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