This might be Röyksopp’s best album. Let’s just state that at the outset. It’s bittersweet as hell, knowing that this is also their swansong, but at least Norway’s most dynamic electro duo are ending this chapter of their life on a high.
As their final album The Inevitable End acts like the third part of a gripping trilogy should. It's dramatic, action-packed, wraps up the preceding narratives and provides closure – think of this as the Return Of The Jedi of Röyksopp's career. It's mature, grounded and with the benefit of hindsight, bolsters the calibre of their previous records. This is the final Harry Potter book, Season 6 of The Sopranos, the final act in Les Mis – it's just as melodramatic too, in the best way possible.
Röyksopp have gathered compadres and comrades from times past and future endeavours – they simultaneously recognise the effect of people like Robyn and hint towards their ongoing trajectory. Jamie Irrepressible, Susanne Sundfør and Man Without Country also make appearances on the record, giving it a collective chorus-y feel with varying lead cast members, like the finale of a mesmerising opera.
Thematically, it's not particularly subtle. This is about 'the end' and its many forms. For Röyksopp, that means their imminent, drastic changes, but it it's got potential to evoke different feelings in different people. More literally, it's about death and mortality, for example. It's a vague enough theme to allow a variety of readings – end of a relationship? End of the world? – but contained enough to give the record a cohesiveness, and that, arguably, is why the record works so well.
“This will be my monument... this will be a beacon when I'm gone.”
The narrative has been sculpted with precision and a delicate touch. Opening like an overture, “Skulls”, “Monument” and “Sordid Affair” are whirring electro-pop belters. “Skulls” is shadowy and celestial Daft Punk-esque dance, littered with palpable beats and vocoders. “Monument” is disturbingly prescient – this is an epitaph – and Robyn's striking cameo is used to great effect (the version is chopped'n'changed from the recent Do It Again collaboration). “Sordid Affair” wields a clarity, but especially towards the end, takes fragments, layers and dream-fuzz pads and smooshes them all together for one grand crescendo – the metaphorical 'light at the end of the tunnel'.
It leads perfectly into the record's standout cut, “You Know I Have To Go”. This is the song that says it all. We've just rubbernecked at a cataclysmic denouement, and riddled with mortal wounds, Röyksopp are comforting. This is their deathbed anthem. It's a deliberate undersell in comparison to the record's opening numbers, signifying change and a reliance on vocal/emotional/lyrical gravitas as opposed to obfuscating electronics.
“You know I have to go... there's nothing more to say.”
From then on, Röyksopp are travelling through their own psyche, coming to terms with regrets and bandaging old injuries. There's forgiveness, respect and a communal grief. From the rage-fuelled psychtronica of “Rong” to the Sundfør-featuring “Running To The Sea” – which sounds nothing like Röyksopp, but rather some chunky Top 40 club ballad – Rihanna's “Diamonds” and Sia x Guetta's “Titanium” are liketimbred souls.
“Coup De Grace” is a ceremonial, cinematic dirge. It's like the death rattle in a wartime epic or Final Fantasy game. Ending on “Thank You” – a typical Röyksopp cut that wouldn't sound out of place at their outset – the twosome are perhaps a little literal, but it works as a gentle wrap-up. This is their final album track, and it touches base with their humble beginnings with grace and a breaking of the fourth wall.
This is a stunning record, principally because of its narrative arc and complete cohesion – it's easy to see why they're leaving the traditional format if they've perfected it.
The Inevitable End is not the end, not for Röyksopp. It's like watching your own funeral from beyond the grave – seeing all your life's bit-players, extras, lead roles and catalysts; lovers, friends, confidantes and family. You may be dead, but all everyone's gathered in celebration of your life.
Except Röyksopp are still with us. They've slipped through the Grimreaper's bony digits, escaping the shackles that constrained them; this is a rebirth, a catharsis. Eschewing the traditional album format is a sacrifice to enable the resurrection of Röyksopp. They're not dead, no – this is just the beginning.