Melbourne’s Ecca Vandal surprised all last Friday by spontaneously dropping her debut EP, End of Time. Considering she has been performing full 60 minute sets until this point with only a handful of singles to her name, it’s amazing that she’s gone on for so long without. But after working on this secret for so long, how has it turned out?
It’s impossible not to get pumped during opener ‘Running at People Exiting’. The electronic drum loop and stabbing riff conjures up images of seedy venues in cyberpunk universes as Vandal sings with a certain sneer on her face. It’s menacing and intense from the get go in a reserved way that so many punk acts tend to forget; meaning when the chorus kicks in with roaring guitars and Vandal’s manic shouting there’s actually a sense of power behind it. The lyrics Vandal has crafted for this track clearly show why the track needs such a tone, taking the perspective of a sexual predator trying to justify their actions all the while speaking of the women they’re attacking as prey. Strangely the words on their own feel as if they would fit more as a Birthday Party–esque post–punk act due to just how harsh and heavy they are, but it’s interesting since most of those groups would use it more for exploitation, to be found shocking. Instead with ‘Running at People Exiting’, Vandal uses this as a chance to demonstrate just how messed up the system is when it comes to sexual assault and how those behind it are aware of how things are skewed in their favour.
The lyrics throughout the EP keep the same tone, though they don’t quite reach the level of the opening track. ‘End of Time’ tells of absolute commitment to someone who is outwardly damaging with an obsessive focus. ‘Truth to Trade’ is an outraged explanation of how brutally disruptive and dishonest it is to take advantage of poorer nations in the name of free trade. ‘Divided’ is a brutal tongue in cheek skewer of a relationship ended due to “cultural differences” (“Dating a racist, you can’t take that dark girl home”). ‘Battle Royale’ keeps up the sarcasm as a call against authority and those hungry for power, but compared to the previous subject matter it gets out-shined in that department.
Though the pounding drums and churning guitars are fantastic, and the way programmer Kidnot pierces with his work is simultaneously unique and catchy as hell, the stand out of the album is definitely Vandal’s vocals. Switching from rapping to singing to screaming all in two minutes in a way that seems second nature, all the while dripping with rage and facetiousness. The instrumentation is solid throughout, though occasionally drifts into forgettable during some of the heavier moments. In the moments it’s in the spotlight, Kidnot’s synth production certainly steals the show with his frantic whirling piercing through the gloomy atmosphere created through his chords.
Overall End of Time is surprising for a number of reasons. It’s surprising that such a mammoth piece of work dropped out of nowhere. It’s surprising that something this polished is Vandal’s first long(ish) form work. It’s surprising how well the elements of punk, hip–hop, and metal mesh with each other, and it’s surprising considering the hype Vandal’s name carries that her debut EP has taken so long. But considering the shape of punk that has come of late, surprising is just what is needed.