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Album Review: ERRA Erra

8.5/10 Reviewer

The term "progressive metalcore" is quite peculiar and borderline oxymoronic. Metalcore alludes to one of the most accessible metal subgenres. On the other hand, progressive infers an expansive, experimental approach to songwriting. On paper, these two styles meeting together would be like water and oil. Yet, the explosion of the subgenre in the 2000s begs to differ. It seems that the collision of both the metalcore and prog mentality opened the gates for certain bands to find a sweet spot between accessibility and experimentation.

More importantly, each act within the emerging scene grew its own distinct and unique identity. After the Burial connected the bridges between metalcore, deathcore, and djent while Periphery dove headfirst into the catchy, melodic side. On the other hand, Born of Osiris included synths and odd rhythm shifts while Volumes focused on groove and occasional nu-metal elements. The list goes on, but it's undeniable that the subgenre flourished due to a true lack of conformity.

Now, we arrive at Erra, standing out for their vocal and instrumental duality, mostly propelled by the falsetto melodies and guitar licks of Jesse Cash. Additionally, like all the aforementioned groups, Erra has matured, flourished, and transformed throughout their career. Each album holds a progressive metalcore identity as its foundation, yet presents a style significantly different than the previous release.

Album Review: ERRA Erra
Photo by Aaron Marsh

Although I’d argue they peaked with the sublime, proggy, and melodic songwriting shown on Drift, I could fully understand if a fan preferred the more confrontational nostalgia within Augment or the dense, lush aesthetic of Neon. As the band jumps ship to UNFD Records, another notable stylistic shift is afoot. Simply put, this self-titled effort sees the band branching out in a profound amount of directions, arguably more than any other release before. With such an ambitious amount of growth, it naturally may take multiple listens to really sink your teeth into the meat of the material, but once you digest it, it's honestly a stellar experience.

From the top, "Snowblood" is the perfect opener. When it originally dropped as a single, it didn’t have much of an effect on me. However, after having more time to chew on the track, I can conclude that it has everything desired. There are elements of Augment, Drift, and Neon intertwined throughout this beast of a composition as well as a few vocal lines that just stick with you. Surprisingly, a very Tool-like groove emerges—an influence that actually shows face several times throughout this LP.

While not as directly enjoyable, the following couple of pieces, "Gungrave" and "Divisionary," still keep the momentum going full-speed, boasting superb dynamics, melodies, and heaviness. The latter track shows the lead guitar's playful relationship with a repeating chant. It was particularly enjoyable and has an unexpected twist that I wish was highlighted even more.

Although those initial three songs showcased Erra's concrete grasp on songwriting, the impactful and hard-hitting creativity is unveiled in the latter half of the album. "Scorpion Hymn" is devastatingly heavy with djenty chugs and JT's bold and commanding growls taking the spotlight. On the other hand, Jesse creates some true earworm chorus melodies on "Electric Twilight" and "Lunar Halo." Within these tracks, a common theme begins to be clear. Not only is JT fitting more snug and confident as a vocalist, but the shared exchange of vocals between him and Jesse is spot-on. Consequently, we see Cash allowing this strengthened vocal dynamic to inspire improved guitar chops.

In the end, this record has really grown on me with more listens. I always viewed Drift as their finest work, yet the more I take in this self-titled LP, the more I'm confident that it may emerge with the gold medal. The vocals sound way stronger, the hooks shine through, there's tasteful experimentation, and most noteworthy is the refined guitar work. I'm not sure if I should give the MVP award to Jesse Cash or Sean Price for their riffs and licks, but there are a multitude of exhilarating moments. To be critical though, I found the last three songs to be lacking substance. Additionally, "House of Glass" had some exceptionally impressive moments, however, there are also a few vocal passages that exude irritatingly run-of-the-mill metalcore mediocrity.

I may have a few nitpicks and surely won't claim it be the ultimate gamechanger, nonetheless, I'm absolutely pleased by Erra. The band proves yet again they are able to gracefully evolve, holding dear onto their progressive metalcore roots, while also introducing more admirable elements to the mix. It appears that they have also allowed their influences to bleed through. Defined by polished experimentation and a breathtaking balance between melody and heaviness, we witness Erra reaching for and finally fully grasping greatness on this self-titled.

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