“I’m collapsing under everything I’ve known”
Forget everything you know about Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. Cast aside the savage brilliance of 2015 debut Blossom and Top Ten follow up Modern Ruin. Erase from your mind a live show which remains the most thrillingly visceral experience in contemporary rock. Because everything they’ve done up until now has been leading to their jaw-dropping third album, End Of Suffering. “It was always about album three, from when we first started out,” says Frank, sitting alongside the band’s guitarist and co-songwriter Dean Richardson in their Mile End creative space.
“We knew we had to get to a stage quite quickly where people realised we’re not just a hardcore punk band. We’ve got much bigger ideas than that.”
Just six months in the making, End Of Suffering - named after the Buddhist term for enlightenment- is the sound of a band entering an entirely new realm of the senses. A forty minute rock’n’rollercoaster of molten-hot bangers, scorched-soul ballads and grunge lullabies laced through with a lacerating lyrical honesty, it’s both a stadium sized declaration of intent and a deeply personal cri-de-coeur.
“This is the most honest record I’ve ever written,” explains Frank. “Blossom was all about loss, Modern Ruin was about crumbling foundations -whether that’s relationships or society. End Of Suffering is a lot more personal. It’s about how fucking hard you can make things for yourself.”
As with all great records, the journey to get here has been one of passion, perseverance and more than a few long dark nights of the soul. With touring duties for Modern Ruin completed with a triumphant sell-out show at Brixton Academy in December 2017, Frank and Dean band found themselves crashlanded back in London, still reeling from what they’d been through. “Modern Ruin was doing so well, it was hard to know when to stop pushing it,” says Dean,
“We probably carried on for six months longer than we should.” “Touring is like Valhalla,” adds Frank.
“You are at the pinnacle of your achievement every night. Or that’s where you should be, because that’s what the people who have paid to see you deserve. The trouble is, it’s so chaotic, and so involved psychologically, physically spiritually and emotionally, it becomes an absolute tax on your person.” The singer’s sense of disorientation wasn’t helped by the fact that that he was also battling his own personal demons.
“I was in the middle of going through a divorce, and I was coming to terms with the way my relationships were going to change, in terms of co-parenting, so it wasn't easy to write a lot of these songs," says Frank with typical candour. "Everyone says you've got to ride the wave, well that's easy if you've got a surfboard. I can't even fuckin' swim."
During the summer of 2018, Frank and Dean met up regularly at their Mile End space, swapping ideas armed only with an electric guitar and an iphone. As a counterpoint to the intensely personal nature of Frank’s words, the pair worked on tunes which reflected their on-tour Spotify list - a liquid, groove-centric mash-up of everything from Prince to Post Malone; The Bad Seeds to Childish Gambino. “When I was in Gallows, I had severe imposter syndrome because people expected me to only like Black Flag,” explains Frank with a grin. “But even then I really liked Bjork, I loved Madness and classical music. I’m into all sorts of stuff and this album reflects that.” This determination to break free from the punk rock strait-jacket saw them recruit
producer Cam Blackwood (George Ezra/Jack Savoretti) to give their raw demos widescreen appeal. “We arranged a trial session and ended up writing two songs and I gave the best vocal performance of my life on ‘Love Games’”, explains Frank. “He’s a proper pop producer but he loves rock music the same way we do. He knows it’s an attitude, rather than a sound. You need to break the rules to keep it fresh.”
Recording in Blackwood’s ‘shoebox-sized’ studio in Clapham, the band tapped into this kinetic energy, laying tracks down quickly rather than trying to recapture the feel of the demos. Following additional sessions at Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire, a final layer of sonic stardust came via mixing legend Alan Moulder (Nine Inch Nails/QOTSA).
"It's so easy for rock records to sound to like tribute records" says Dean. "He knows what each song needs. He elevated them to another level."
The result is End Of Suffering. it pulsates with ideas, energy and –crucially- cracking tunes. ‘Kitty Sucker’ - where Frank leers “I’m a punk rock renegade/ A tattooed motherfucker dripping lust for decade” is designed to create mosh pit mayhem, while Tyrant Lizard King is more vicious still- the musical equivalent of a bloodthirsty knifefight between Muse and Kasabian on the set of Peaky Blinders.
It’s when the fury is dialled-down, however, that End Of Suffering is at its most compelling. ‘Anxiety’ is a paranoic festival anthem in waiting, while ‘Love Games’ is an absolute beauty; a distortion-heavy nod to Amy Winehouse’s finest moment destined to soundtrack the summer. Which brings us to the title track. An acoustic ballad concluding with a recording of Frank’s daughter, Mercy, it’s an emotionally wracked reminder that the darkest hour is always just before the dawn. "An album is a weapon," says Frank in conclusion.
"It can be really therapeutic for people but it can also do a lot of damage if you create a journey which leaves people in too much of fragile place, so we want to end it on a positive note."
Indeed. In an age of say-nothing pop and codified corporate rock, End Of Suffering does what all great music should- lift the spirits and stir the soul. There won’t be a better album released this year.