You know that exhilarating pump of adrenaline you feel when you’re literally the most excited you could ever be for literally anything at all? That rush that takes over your entire being and leaves you almost breathless? And when the time comes for you to finally experience whatever that thing may be, there are those rare times when your mind is blown even further than you could have ever expected. These moments are few and far between these days considering everything going on, on this poor planet of ours, so no matter the reason IF you are one of the lucky ones who can find all of these SUPER EXCITEABLE adjectives summed up in any shape or form then you must relish in that my friend. I’ve had many of these fortuitous moments as of late but have not forgotten to still keep my eyes out for the little things. One such ‘little thing’ came recently when I opened up my email one fine day and saw a review copy of ERRA’s upcoming self titled album. I won’t go and say something foolish like I’ve been anticipating this album…due to my overabundance of happy words and drawn-out metaphors, I’d say my pre-receiving-yearning for this album is crystal clear. Finally, being able to hear this album was in actuality one of those rare moments for me. I am for all intents and purposes a music fanatic. I can barely go through any period of time in a day without it playing, if even just in the background. I eagerly look forward to albums I both receive for review and of course those I don’t as well. When it comes to ERRA though, my fancies are tickled ever so vigorously, and I can never get enough. Leading up to that (musical love focused) world changing email, I had read an interview with a member of ERRA, stating basically that this album was an almost rebirth for the band. Hence there was no other name necessary to title said album. It would be a reintroduction if you will. The singles may have not given you all that exact sense (aside from perhaps “Scorpion Hymn”, which almost harkens back to the pre-JT era of ERRA) but let me express and convey with the utmost certainty and heartfelt assuredness that is exactly what ERRA is. I can only imagine how the discussion went down in the planning and recording of this album, but one thing’s for sure that I can at least assume was conversed and that’s that this album would be a new dawn for the band. Yes, there are definitely some of the tried-and-true qualities that have always made ERRA who and what they are sound-wise, but the sheer number of unforeseen twists and turns is literally baffling. I’m not lost on the irony that one of the released singles, “Divisionary”, revolves around modern societies infatuation and glue-like attachment with our little screens (mainly cellphones, but I’m sure laptops and the like could be included) and yet here I am, eyes peeled on one at this exact moment…but then again I’m sure there’s were fixated on screens very much the same when creating what one could only refer to as the masterpiece that is ERRA.
Genre: Progressive Metalcore | Metalcore
Release: March 19th, 2021
FLOW / LONGEVITY / ORIGINALITY
Setting all bias aside, which I won’t bullshit and say is easy in this instance, I’ve probably listened to this album hundreds of times since it graced my speakers not so long ago. Over and over, day in and day out this pure FIYAH has been on constant repeat. I am lucky enough to have a day job which allows me to listen to tunes throughout the workday in its entirety, and aside from perhaps the short drive to and from my workplace establishment where I may have (quite infrequently) played something else to simply mix it up a bit, ERRA’s ERRA was almost all that my ears heard. Front to back, on shuffle a million and one different ways and yet the tracks always ebbed and flowed in exquisite succession. My point is regardless of playing the record in the order in which it was meant to be heard or in literally any other order my phone or laptop randomly chose, it always made sense and felt right. Now, in saying that, I do favor the one through twelve, front to back listening experience. The album harkens the listener’s ear immediately with the synthesizer opening to single and first song on ERRA, “Snowblood”. The track heavy and airy all at ones. It’s mixture of ferocity and ethereal ambiences harmonize in way that is unmistakably ERRA. The song comes to abrupt halt with JT wailing ‘Fuck it I’m done! This is a waking nightmare!’, but don’t sit at ease just yet. With only that brief second of silence before “Gungrave” hits, you won’t have time to take a breath. Heavily palm muted, face paced played guitars and bass combined with relentless double bass drumming hit’s through your eardrums into your cranium and sends a shock down your spinal cord with zero refrain. While “Divisionary” is no radio-friendly track in any sense, it isn’t quite as balls-to-the-wall in your face as the first two tracks, bringing the tempo (and your heartbeat) down…just a bit. “House of Glass” on the other hand once again has that effortless combo of beauty and beast. One of the reasons I fucking love this band so much. Not many others seem to have this uncanny knack of such a pairing of sounds and emotions to my ears. The rest of ERRA has this way of playing out that just always…well, makes sense and sounds exactly as it should. I would perhaps be bold enough to say that the only track that may feel ever so slightly out of place in the overall flow of things is the album closer, “Memory Fiction” if it weren’t the closer. Sometimes it’s actually perfect planning to end such a pleasurable onslaught of sounds with something sonically more subtle and harmonious.
Jesus. How much stay power does an album like this have? Honestly, even setting my extreme biased aside, I’d say this album will be spun for countless years to come. One of THE greatest things about Erra is that you most absolutely will hear some new aspect in each song almost every time you listen to it. Even though I had heard “Scorpion Hymn” a couple handfuls of times before receiving my promo copy, I still hadn’t quite picked up on all of the variations of screams even layered upon one another right around the “A dream once hopeful, now a conduit of self-hatred…” mark. The album truly shows many new sides to ERRA which helps it to be an even more interesting and vast listening experience, even time after time, and will help it to become a constant addition to any playlists even down the road. This would be one of those albums that ten years from now, when you’ve bought your 50th new laptop and of-fucking-course forgot to backup your 49th beforehand, you’ll be scrambling to get back on there.
I won’t lie and say every time I get to the ‘originality’ portion on my reviews that I don’t get a bit of writer’s block. I mean, I know there is a literal definition of ‘original’ or ‘originality’ but whenever the topic of this comes up on almost any band’s any album in a conversation, it almost immediately turns into a heated debate. IN MY OPINION ERRA, as I’ve already stated, has broken new ground for the band with their self titled. Yes, there are certain qualities that you will have heard on past releases but as a whole I just feel that the new surprises far outweigh anything that feels familiar. “Memory Fiction” being a solid point for my case. This track is what almost anyone would consider (in layman’s terms) ‘soft’. It is strictly clean vocals sung over piano (insert gasping face emoji here…PIANO?! ON AN ERRA SONG?! Yuppers!), beautifully harmonizing guitar, bass, and drums. No super-techy guitar work, no palm muting, no blast beats, NO screaming. Now I can picture you reading this and saying ‘yea, well there’s countless other bands who have done exactly fucking that, dude!’, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But hear me out; when I talk about ‘originality’ in my reviews, I don’t always compare the band in question to any other band. I’m reviewing THIS album, so I more so compare it to any past releases from THIS band. Another notable new thang would be the use of cleans by the once before only screaming JT…but I’ll get to that in the ‘Vocals’ portion shortly. In summation of this category though, I can 100%, in all cot dang certainty say as for as ERRA goes, this is some entirely new and fresh shiz.
VOCALS / INSTRUMENTATION
The vocals. Me oh my, the vocals. I will start this by saying that even before JT’s wide array of newly added skills and abilities, He has always been the screamer of this band that I have loved the most. I know, I know…some of you out there will disagree with that, but just you wait. I got a strong ass feeling this album may be what tips the scales. Upon any of you lovelies reading this we all will have heard “Scorpion Hymn” and “House of Glass” and gotten a taste of the fact that he has most certainly expanded his range of screams and even added some cleans into the mix, but this is far from it folks. On “Shadow Autonomous”…aside from being one of my personal favorites…JT has an entire passage of purely cleans. Dude’s got so goddamn range I did not see coming! There’s a moment on the bridge of “Vanish Canvas”…which has to be one of the most beautiful sounding ERRA songs I have EVER heard…where the deep and profound emotion of JT’s screams would not have been the same if he had kept them in the same register he used to mostly stick with. Out of both vocalists he will have the most shockingly surprising moments I assure you. Jesse Cash. I mean fuck, come on. That dude is and always has been one of THE best clean vocalists in the progressive and purely metalcore world. But what I came to find was that it at least seems he found a new octave on the lower end of the spectrum. Best heard on songs like “Memory Fiction”, “Electric Twilight”, and “Vanish Canvas”, and I gotta tell ya, it’s just added yet another really cool twist to some of these tracks. Aside from that I have also ne’er heard such pure and raw emotion just oozing forth in every word this guy sings. Both vocalists have truly stepped up their game, and I wonder if at least in part it could have to do with the fact that this album breathed new life into them as well.
ERRA have always been known to be exceptionally creative, innovative, and talented with their musicianship. One thing I’ve always admired about the band s that while they do incorporate electronic or sampled flourishes here and there, they actually create most of their ambient and ethereal touches with their actual instruments. That is one thing I’m extremely stoked on that didn’t really change with this album. The opening of “Eidolon” could literally be playing at the top of a mountain that someone had just climbed, and as they stare out over the clouds above and world below, it would make perfect sense. The airy guitars combined with a sludgy pluck of a singular intermittent base note at times and a flourish of string plucking at others, and the lightly wrapped drumming just gives you that higher than life feel. The drumming on both “Gungrave” and “Remnant” are ballistic as hell and honestly sound as if Alex Ballew may have had to go through a few sets of sticks just to make that shit actually happen. The bassline during the verses of “Electric Twilight” are smooth yet complex all at once, helping the listener to actually imagine stars of electrified light even right in the comfort of their very own home. They brought the pretty, they brought the harmonious, and this time around they damn well fucking brought the heavy along with em too.
COMPOSITION / PRODUCTION
I think that there’s one for sure thing that anyone from a diehard fan to a casual listener of ERRA could agree on, and that’s that this band does not take the creation of any album for granted. They don’t rely on their name or fame to sell records. They back up what they put out with all that cliched blood, sweat, and tears plus a little more when putting an album together. It fucking shows more than ever on this masterful masterpiece. Those moments where sure, heavy guitars playing the same chords together would have still been cool as shit, you can tell they said ‘nah, it’s missing something’. The bridge of “Shadow Autonomous” is a prime example. The chord progression while not super technical has some serious groove and instrumental emotion all on it own but layered on top is the second guitar playing perfectly chosen notes to really drive that beauty home. Lyrically this band is undoubtedly astounding. Sometimes it takes even a dire fan like me a few listens to grasp what concept they may have been going for. And, while the sung words in music can be subjective to relate to any subject you find a connection with, I think all of us like to know the message the band was actually putting pen to paper, mouth to mic about. Everything was thought of everything makes sense, everything is exactly as it should be with this album and that’s due to painstakingly putting all efforts at maximum effort during creation and leading to fruition.
An album such as ERRA (or for a band such as this in general), you wouldn’t get too far with half-assed production value. If it were too muddy sounding, the ambient and ethereal portions would lose all point and be lost forever in a muddled mess. This shit is pure, crisp, and clean baby. As I previously stated, I’m still hearing new details in different parts of each song and that wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the immensely perfect (yes. I do mean perfect) production for each and every aspect that goes into every single song.
Sometimes it is really damn hard to remain unbiased when writing a review. That actually came up in discussion just this morning before I dived into writing this. Whether it be to (like in this case) an extreme adoration for the music any particular band creates, or a vile and deep hatred…sometimes it’s hard not to blur the lines between being biased and staying as neutral as possible. This clearly was one of those times for me. ERRA became one of my favorite bands when they released Drift and with this now being the third release with JT, my favoritism for this band has only grown exponentially. But I don’t think that’s unwarranted, especially this time around. Not to beat the metaphorical horse anymore into the ground, but they truly have found a way to almost reinvent themselves while remaining completely true to who they’ve always been. I know that sounds fairly hypocritical, but just sit down and listen and you’ll see. For the fans of pre-JT ERRA, I know you’ll be more than pleased with the insane amount he has grown his abilities and the fact that they brought back a bit more of the heavy heavy they had maybe lost a touch on the past two albums. To combine such a vast number of elements onto one album and have it all actually make sense is a true art, and these boys have hit that shit way out of the park. There is something for old, newer, and the newest of fans with this record. You all won’t be ready for this. Sit down. Buckle in. And get ready for one helluva experience.