A journey to nowhere
Music can be negatively impacted by a wide variety of reasons. Your mood, location, or mode of listening all play a huge part in how songs and albums are interpreted. Sometimes, these factors are out of the artist’s control. There is no doubt that Magic Sword would rather you hear Endless at one of their legendary live shows. Given the current quarantine situation, this is clearly not possible. However, none of that absolves Magic Sword from the flaws of Endless that prevent it from being a compelling at-home listen in any sense.
To paint a broad picture of the flaws inherent in Endless, it comes down to dynamics. While one can appreciate when bands and artists subvert typical song structures, that isn’t exactly what Magic Sword is trying to do here. Most electronic groups either choose to be more dance-focused, drop focused or vibe focused. Though there are exceptions to these three categories, most electronic artists tend to fit into at least one. Magic Sword, if one had to venture a guess, is shooting for some combination of vibe and dance. The issue is that it never commits enough to a single one to excel. Each track is too slow to be a compelling dance track, but also too in your face to drift into ambient like Tycho, or just vibes like TOKiMONSTA. What we’re left with is a meandering, far too long album that never settles on a destination worth reaching.
Breaking it down track by track, these flaws become even more apparent. The opening track “Depths of Power” threatens to have dynamic range but always stops short of developing anything interesting. It just adds layer upon layer without really the dynamics of the track. As a result, the track is tepid and dull, which is even more upsetting when you realize it’s one of the more interesting tracks on the record. The two most blatant offenders are “Shores of Oblivion” and “Hope.” The former, given the name, aims to compel a riveting sense of dread. All it does is just… exist aimlessly. It repeats the same synth pattern, occasionally pushing the background bass thrum into the foreground to keep things a little more interesting. It’s an exercise in tension, but it never makes you tense. “Hope” on the other hand, as the longest track on the album, should go through a boatload of dynamic ranges. Predictably, it also floats along, though we at least get some decent atmospherics from the background synths. But none of this can save “Hope” which doesn’t even begin to earn its runtime, another significant flaw of the record.
To provide the record with some credit, the closing track “Endless” is emotionally gripping and triumphant. It weaves an internal narrative of glory and strife that the other tracks so rarely reach. Though the rest of the record is flawed, this track is certainly worth a revisit. The counterpoint to all of these accusations is that the record is clearly intended to weave some sort of narrative. With track names like “Ritual,” “Hope” and “A New Quest” there certainly was the intent of a narrative. But upon listening to the record multiple times, none becomes apparent. That’s not to say that weaving a narrative with instrumental music is easy, but the specific song structures employed by Magic Sword on Endless call no imagery to mind. I see no mythical battles or surmounted obstacles. There is only the same set of sounds, slowly repeating over and over, fading into the darkness.