Explosions in the Sky, “End”

The instrumental post-rockers’ seventh LP finds them even more lost than they were when venturing into the wilderness seven years ago.

Explosions in the Sky, End

The instrumental post-rockers’ seventh LP finds them even more lost than they were when venturing into the wilderness seven years ago.

Words: Kurt Orzeck

September 15, 2023

Explosions in the Sky

When Explosions in the Sky announced in mid-April that they would stage about a dozen concerts in the US in the fall, followed by almost as many more in Europe, under the banner “The End Tour,” the writing appeared to be on the wall. Or on the headstone, if you will: “Explosions in the Sky: 1999-2023.” After a career lasting a quarter-century, one could even visualize the epitaph for the instrumental post-rock band: “They said a lot without having to say anything at all.”

Words can be deceiving, of course, which the Austin-based group knows as well as how to craft emotionally ensconcing, entirely wordless music (the key is leaving it to the listener’s imagination to evoke pictures and thoughts to accompany their emotive compositions—much like being in therapy, it takes participation by both therapist and patient to arrive at a result that’s satisfying to the latter). To the surprise, relief, and/or chagrin of their fanbase, Explosions declared three months after the tour announcement that it would not, in fact, be a farewell in which tears would be shed and chrysanthemums tossed toward the four band members during their fall engagements. Much to the contrary, “The End Tour” would actually showcase a new album called…End. The prior news updates were apparently nothing more than the band pulling one over on the lot of us.

End comes seven years after Explosions in the Sky delved into The Wilderness (with a stop in Big Bend along the way), an often-upbeat albeit meditative post-rock excursion that was a salve to some in the midst of discontent over the election of a certain individual to the Oval Office the year it came out. But merely embarking on a trek doesn’t guarantee treasure, or even promise, at the trail’s end, as we discovered with The Wilderness. Similarly, by and large, End finds Explosions even more lost than they were when they went into the woods the last time. For every new path they take, all the pleasantries along the way don’t add up to a sum that’s greater than its parts. More often than not, it’s a bummer, man. 

From “Moving On” to “Peace or Quiet” to “The Fight,” the conclusions leave the listener crestfallen and pining for a parfait of positivity. Each of the seven serenades on End harness Explosions in the Sky’s mastery of tumescence and detumescence, culminating in the eight-minute closer “It’s Never Going to Stop.” And yet, for an instrumental group, the title of that album-closing selection speaks volumes. The end has always existed, it’s always been waiting for us, we’ve always been heading toward it, and nothing will deter our eventual arrival at it.