Just over a year after the death of lead singer Dolores O’Riordan, the Cranberries released their final album which acts as both a farewell to their group’s career and to O’Riordan.
The production of In The End began in 2017 with songs composed by both guitarist Noel Hogan and O’Riordan. Recording began before O’Riordan’s death, and after her passing, the band acquired permission from O’Riordan’s loved ones to use her vocals in what they then decided would be their closing album.
The final product consists of 11 songs, each prominently featuring O’Riordan’s unique voice which has defined the band’s sound since she joined in 1990. In the End opens with “All Over Now,” which sets the tone for an album filled with sorrow, acceptance and closure for the band and fans alike. “All Over Now” is reminiscent of the Cranberries’ early sound in the 1990s’ alternative rock era as O’Riordan’s light, warbling voice floats over the heavy partnership of drums and guitar. This opening song contains a certain rawness never before heard from the Cranberries. The album takes on a haunting quality that highlights the band’s search for a peaceful ending, which may be due to the shock from hearing O’Riordan’s posthumous recording.
Immediately following “All Over Now,” the second track “Lost” evokes sorrow, heartbreak and a haunting fear of being left behind. “I feel I’m dwelling in the past / Time is moving fast,” sings O’Riordan in a powerful serenade. “Lost” in particular reminds me of O’Riordan’s uniqueness in her ability to convey so much emotion and power through a voice that is both hard and soft. The tracks following “Lost” continue the motif of moving on that In the End offers. The first half of the album specifically seems to center on this idea of “tomorrow,” as the band takes its listeners on a journey through healing and moving forward past O’Riordan’s death and their subsequent breakup. “A Place I Know” offers a softer side of the Cranberries, as it takes listeners into a folksy, stripped-down sound as O’Riordan sings that “Yesterday is gone . . . Tomorrow will come,” offering a shift from the melancholic and sorrowful first half into a stronger and more hopeful second.
Despite the gentleness of “A Place I Know,” the Cranberries reminds us that their journey remains an upwards one, as songs such as “Catch Me If You Can” shift suddenly from quiet to harsh in a flash. Yet the Cranberries persist. O’Riordan’s voice offers an optimism with an edge as she sings that “With the passing of time / It’s the coming of age” in “Got It” and that “This is my conclusion / For now” in “Illusion.” These two songs remind me strongly of the Cranberries’ sound in the 1990s, but softer, indicating the band’s nod to their success and to the unique style which defined them as a leader of 1990s alternative rock, but also recognizing their growth and their acceptance that In the End will be their end.
The album closes with its title track “In the End,” which serves as both a reflection of where the band has been and a suitable close both to the album and the Cranberries as a band. They reflect that “Ain’t it strange / That everything you wanted / Was nothing that you wanted / In the end,” acknowledging the emotional and personal growth of the group through their 20-year run. I must admit that listening to the album, I did not feel like I heard anything new or innovative, but I didn’t really want to.
The Cranberries present a clean, enjoyable album which offers a perfect goodbye. In the End resurrects the Cranberries of the 1990s, but enhanced. They are older, wiser and barer but they remain loyal to the rebellious and folksy spirit that made them iconic.
In the End leaves its listeners satisfied. It is an album of mourning, but also of reflection and acceptance that life throws unexpected challenges and heartbreak, but in the end, we are stronger for it.
Erin Hockenberry is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.