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In the months following the unexpected passing of Dolores O'Riordan, the surviving members of the Cranberries decided to complete the album they had been recording together before her accidental death in January 2018. The resulting eighth and final effort, In the End, served as both a goodbye to their inimitable vocalist and the band itself. Along with longtime producer Stephen Street, Fergal Lawler and Mike and Noel Hogan returned the group's sound to the '90s, evoking the spirits of 1994's No Need to Argue and 1996's To the Faithful Departed. Elegiac and bittersweet, In the End is a heavy listen, haunted by the finality of mortality and unrealized potential. However, instead of casting an impenetrable shadow over the album, O'Riordan's vocals serve as a reminder of the beauty and purity she captured throughout the band's decades-long existence, capable of ethereal highs and vulnerable lows. Recorded in her final months, the demo vocals used on In the End were delivered to the band just hours before she passed, a tragic serendipity that allowed them to craft this farewell. Also, while some songs might feel like B-sides and incomplete visions, the band works around these precious vocal fragments so well that listeners might not notice or even care. Highlights "All Over Now" and "Catch Me If You Can" are the most intense offerings here, recalling "Ridiculous Thoughts" and "Promises" with their dramatic delivery and desperate energy. Elsewhere, "Got It" and "Summer Song" build to urgent choruses atop backing that resurrects "Dreams" and "Free to Decide." As posthumous releases go, it's impossible to not analyze every lyric for hidden meanings, especially when O'Riordan cries "bring in the night" while wondering "how can I go without you now?" and laments about "loosening the mortal chain." Balancing the bookend of album-opener "All Over Now," the set closes on an equally tear-jerking and lyrically prophetic track. The last song recorded for the album -- and, essentially, for the band -- "In the End" swells with emotion, a weary rumination that examines the important things in life. Over the Cranberries' final guitar strums and drum taps, O'Riordan reminds listeners that -- even if all is lost or taken away -- no one can ever "take the spirit." With a final impact, the Cranberries end their 30-year story with a last goodbye to O'Riordan and their faithful fans in mourning.
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