As an album that has only just reached two years old, this is not a traditional ‘classic’ by any means, and may not be considered as such by most readers. But for Jake Longhurst, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes' End Of Suffering is a modern masterpiece, and he's here to convince you that in a matter of years it shall be considered a classic album.
The sheer strength of this whole release, from track one through to track thirteen, is unbelievable, and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes should be extremely proud of the work they’ve done here. They have created something that, for me at least, is a life-changing and life-affirming collection of music. Using Frank’s life experiences, they have crafted an album that is all at once vulnerable, emotive, erotic, aggressive, and yet entirely cohesive. Rarely, if ever, do I think every song on a record deserves multiple listens every time, but this record is one of the rare few where it would be completely justified.
The opening track Why A Butterfly Can’t Love A Spider is about a toxic relationship using the metaphorical imagery of a butterfly and a spider. The song is performed from the perspective of the one who is being toxic, who is cautioning their partner about the prospect of staying with them, with a slinky guitar line underpinning the song. Frank’s vocals are at once both tender and powerful, with sultry lows and soaring high notes that exacerbate the already emotive lyrics to create a song that is utterly sexy, even when describing such a toxic situation. The whole mood of the song changes throughout, getting gradually darker and darker, as the titular ‘butterfly’ in the song gets dragged further into the spider’s clutches, falling farther and farther into this twisted relationship.
"He feels that his spirit animal is the Tyrannosaurus Rex"
The only collaboration on the album comes in the form of Tyrant Lizard King, which features the mighty Tom Morello on guitar. It references the song Electric Eye by the inimitable Judas Priest in the first line, so it starts off very strong, and only gets stronger. The song has a low riding, groovy riff with a powerful bass line, and Morello's solo is a screeching, wailing ride that is particularly reminiscent of Bulls On Parade, amongst other Rage Against The Machine songs. The title of the track is the translation of the Latin for Tyrannosaurus Rex. Frank has stated that he feels everyone has multiple parts of their personality, and that the most powerful part is what your spirit animal embodies. He feels that his spirit animal is the Tyrannosaurus Rex, and this song is about trying to control that side of himself, whilst still giving it room to breathe so he can be himself. The lyrics are deliberately vague as it is a broad description, so as to allow many different people to associate, however it is still very apt in its writing and what it describes, and could easily be read as a damnation of politicians, music industry moguls, or any other corrupt individuals, as well as Frank’s metaphor for himself.
Supervillain carries on the themes of Frank dealing with his personality, chiefly around ideas of lust and desire, and this song carries a fair amount of metaphor inside the lyrics, from the comparison "Sodom and Gomorrah is a warehouse in East London" to "Bordello on the floor, Valentino by the door", the first of which is referencing the Biblical towns Sodom and Gomorrah which were destroyed by God for the sheer volume of sin being committed in them, and it focused on lustful sin, which is where we get the word ‘sodomy’. The second of the two is a double meaning, referencing either the well known fashion brands, suggesting that he is with a very rich woman, and they have not wasted time in removing their clothes, or is referring to a contrast between the romantic and the sour, in the Hollywood romantic Rudolph Valentino and the old word for a brothel, a bordello. This is a fine example of Frank’s lyrical genius, and helps to convey more depth to his final message in this song, calling himself a ‘supervillain’, and describing how deeply conflicted he is by his actions.
Ironically, the track Heartbreaker is about a man who meets someone that causes him to fall in love, instead of becoming a ‘Heartbreaker’. This was the first song I heard by this band, and as such is still one of my all time favourites. It’s a high energy track talking about someone who the singer has just met. He was planning on breaking her heart, however he ended up falling for her, and the whole song describes them working themselves out. The song is instantly catchy, with a simple riff, an easily remembered chorus, and an infectious melody. I love the idea behind this song, as it is not a standard love song, but isn’t what you’d expect from the title either, and bridges the gap between the two brilliantly, turning the expectation of what you were after completely on its head, whilst still not being at all traditional for a song about falling in love.
"Crowbar is Frank’s attempt to make people wake up and break away from societal norms"
Crowbar is Frank’s attempt to make people wake up and break away from societal norms, to assure them that it is actually alright to be themselves, to present the way they want to, and to be who they would like to be. The song starts off talking about how life all started from the Big Bang, and evolved until eventually we got to this bizarre situation where we are all trapped inside a box entirely of our own making, and so encourages you to get the titular ‘Crowbar’ to break open the box. Musically, it’s a punk rager, and has been their final live song since it’s release, until the most recent tour whereby it is now their penultimate track. It sits perfectly in the area between anger and fun, so is a phenomenal choice to finish a show with, and I can safely say that it is well worth seeing live.
Anxiety is written exactly about what you’d expect. Frank has struggled with anxiety for years, and so penned this song to shed some light on his experience of it. It’s also written to be like a hand on the shoulder of those with similar struggles, to help them realise that they aren’t alone and that things can be better. Musically, this feels like a logical progression between the two tracks either side, acting as a melancholy bridge between the preceding soulful ballad and the incredibly personal and affecting track that follows. Anxiety perfectly spans the lyrical content of the two, and connects them musically, with elements that are present in both songs either side as well. The chorus to this song is a particular highlight, as it serves both as a rallying cry and also as a massive section for crowd participation, allowing everyone to truly feel the message of this song, not just hear it.
Angel Wings is the most powerful and most affecting song on this album. It’s a deeply introspective and personal piece of music, and even now when I listen to it, it still gets to me. The song is written about Frank’s addiction to prescription pills, and how it ultimately led to him attempting suicide. The song is very heavily influenced by grunge, and feels like a direct descendant of some of the grunge greats, chiefly Nirvana, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden. The lyrics in the first verse are an ode to the feeling of addiction and his need to take more drugs to feel at ease, which segues into the chorus, which compares his need for oxygen to his need for vodka, Vicodin, and prochlorperazine. The second verse deals with his mental state, and shows how vulnerable he is, feeling like he’s "collapsing under everything [he’s] known" and he doesn’t know where to go. The bridge immediately after is the most affecting segment of the song, discussing his vodka-fuelled attempted suicide, where he pleads "don’t catch me when I fall". Out of every song on this album, this song is my favourite, and is possibly the most well-written. If I could recommend only one song from this album, it would without a doubt be this one.
Harking back to the themes of both Supervillain and Angel Wings, Latex Dreams is a very sexual song, but with significant references to drink and drugs. The focus of the song is what Frank is doing on a night out with a woman, including "triples on the rocks", a not very subtle nod to cocaine about an "old mirror table" that’s seen "a lot of nostrils", and "all the other bad things that [they] do", which naturally brings to mind all manner of activities, both drink and drug related, or sexual. It appears that the relationship between the two is purely casual, as Frank wonders that if he falls in love, "will it be the end of us?", but it is muddled by him asking if she is still in love with him, so the situation is a seemingly rather messy scenario, made worse by the drink and the drugs. I suspect that the woman referenced here may be the same woman in the next song, Kitty Sucker, as that refers to the pair as "fast fuckers, slow lovers", suggesting how quickly they got together, but didn’t realise mutual feelings for some time, which could be directly leading on from this song.
Speaking of Kitty Sucker, it is an extremely close second-best on the album to Angel Wings in my opinion, and happens to be the first song I ever crowd-surfed to. It is quite a self-explanatory song, oozing with lust and desire for Frank’s "punk rock queen". Naturally this song has a very slinky riff that fits the lyrical content perfectly, which consists of Frank singing about his relationship with this woman that largely depends on sex and their chemistry. This is a fan favourite song, largely due to the energy of the song when played live, and the sexual content of the song. It’s split into three sections musically, as clear cut verses, choruses and the bridge towards the end, with the verses being quite sparse on guitar, then building into the chorus where the riff changes to power chords, and then the bridge which has much more aggression laid into it by Frank, to the point you can almost feel him spitting acid at the microphone.
Little Devil features the same reptilian imagery as Tyrant Lizard King, but instead of referring to his personality, or to some corrupt politician, it is referring to the fear he has gained through fatherhood, giving him a constant sense of someone watching him. This track marks a transition to the end of the album, closing the project on Frank’s reflection of his maturation since becoming a father and how it’s affected him and his mental state. It appears that he has become more nervous, or perhaps even paranoid, since having his daughter, and so he now has his own ‘Little Devil’ that watches over him.
"You can tell just how much he loves his daughter, and it is an incredibly powerful song about fatherhood"
The following track End Of Suffering continues this theme, with Frank wondering how to be the best father possible for his daughter and trying to make sure he makes the right decisions. The song is a stripped back affair, mostly focusing just on the vocal performance, so you can hear every drop of emotion he pours into the song. The most emotive part for me is the very end, where he sings "And your happiness will be the end of suffering", showing that his cares for his daughter’s happiness are so massive that making her happy is going to help his suffering. This is a lot of pressure to put upon himself as a father, but you can tell just how much he loves his daughter, and it is an incredibly powerful song about fatherhood, and is a perfect way to round off the album.
Bleed was released about a year after the full length album came out, but is included on Spotify and all subsequent vinyl releases as the final song on the album, so I will still treat it as such. In terms of lyrical content, it harks back to Love Games, a soulful, grunge-inflected ballad about heartbreak that appears in the former half of the album. It questions "If love is a losing game, then why do we play it again?", wondering why we bare our souls to people only to be hurt, even suggesting that at the end of it all there are no winners in love, as everyone will end up dying. However, it is only human for us to desire this emotional connection, so we carry on exposing our emotions and vulnerabilities knowing we will feel pain because of it, not because we like pain, but simply because we need to experience it.
"Two lines that encompass not only the pain and suffering Frank has dealt with, but also his route to recovery"
Bleed makes further references to this pain of heartbreak; however, the final two lines of this song see it fit to stay as a suitable replacement for End Of Suffering at the end of the album, with "Make God damn sure you ain’t swinging by your fucking neck, because you can’t feel love when you’re dead" stringing together two of the most notable themes across this album into two lines that encompass not only the pain and suffering Frank has dealt with, but also his route to recovery, and a very slight sense of optimism, as he as almost telling himself not to kill himself, giving us a brief glimmer of hope to finish off the absolute coup de gras that is End Of Suffering.
I can’t say much more about this album, so to finish this review, all I’ll say is please go out and listen to this album. It changed the way I listen to music, and affects me every day since listening to it. I firmly believe this to be the best punk album released since the Sex Pistols released Never Mind The Bollocks, and I implore you to take the 46 minutes and 53 seconds it will require to listen to all 13 songs on this album. You won’t regret it.
Edited by: Gemma Cockrell
In-article image courtesy of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes via Facebook.