Erra

Augment

Written by: BL on 27/11/2013 04:35:33

In 2011 Birmingham, Alabama's Erra released "Impulse", a thoroughly enjoyable musical romp that mixed shades of post-hardcore bands like Saosin with the spacey and progressive elements of Periphery and metalcore like that of For The Fallen Dreams. Back now with new album "Augment", the opening segment of "Alpha Seed" is a soaring introduction of gorgeously ringing melodies backed by a thick and rumbling epic drum passage, like pushing open huge gates to the exciting unknown. As the heavier and more brutish elements finally do come into play there is a real overwhelming sense of weight bearing down from the cacophony of chugging rhythms. The production has beefed up a substantial amount since last time. We still get the thick accentuated bass tones and the treble is sharp and clear as ever - the result is a layered and wholesome mix. The ferocious screams sound particularly good from vocalist Garrison Lee, who is largely reminiscent of Karl Schubach of Misery Signals but with a much higher range where he can break into the odd piercing high.

Still, even at their heaviest Erra do not stray far from their endearing melodic side and it's worthwhile to also mention just how much more refined the singing from lead guitarist Jesse Cash has become. On "Impulse" his admittedly effeminate, high pitched Saosin/Secret And Whisper-esque singing voice had a slightly overprocessed finish which sacrificed raw tone for an ethereal quality that complemented the futuristic sound. He now comes across as more authentic as the filters have definitely been dialed back, but also there's more strain applied that gives his singing a more raspy edge, at no less cost of range which is a definite plus. There's a bit more singing from Jesse overall across the album, but the progressive and non-linear approach to Erra's songs ensure that each moment graced is different to the last, and boy has he improved his knack for catchy hooks too, as moments on "Pulse", "Frostbite" and "Crimson" delightfully demonstrate.

Instrumentally there is a return of the unique xylophone (or something like a xylophone) from "Impulse" adding colour, but also a noticeably bigger presence of intertwining melodic guitars throughout, intelligently inserted and brought in without sacrificing rhythm and movement even on more breakdown-heavy tracks "Hybrid Earth" and the wonderfully atmospheric "Spirited Away". Crucially, Jesse and his fellow guitarist Alan Rigdon impress using their instrumental mastery without just spewing out parts that are mind-bendingly difficult just for the sake of added complexity. This isn't to discredit more wildly technical bands at all, but simply to illustrate that even at their busiest and most intricate, like at the end of "Frostbite", the guitar riffs always remain surprisingly accessible and devilishly playful.

Meanwhile, letting the melodies ring all the time can get old and gimmicky fast when you repeat the same notes as some other bands do, but for Erra it always sounds brilliant no matter how many times they use them. Dazzling bursts of guitar solos both long and short similarly serve as more than simply traditional focus points in the song for the guitar players to show off, but as another seamless component to the constantly rich and moving compositions. This is especially prominent on tracks like "Rebirth", "Promotheus", and towards the end of "Hybrid Earth". It all comes together finally for the closer "Dementia" where the introductory part of the song alone sends chills every time as it's so unbelievably catchy. It's a truly epic song that has just about every dynamic thrown in, with an epic blazing guitar solo finish to cap it all off.

Lyrically Erra has always tried to stand out a little from the rest of the pack and "Augment" is no different. Within the genre most songs tend to be written about failed relationships or annoying people, and general trends to catch the appeal of a mass audience. That much is fine, but sadly often reads or sounds like it was written by someone less than educated or lacking any personality, or in worst cases like an angry twelve year old. The lyrics from "Augment" on the other hand always read like metaphysical or metaphorical poetry - e.g. "This is the disintegration of my being. Love has either lost or proved its meaning." or "Close your divine eyes to reason. Let inertia move you. Cling and be clung to. Speak and be spoken to. How beautiful you find yourself." It's sometimes thought provoking, sometimes inspirational and uplifting, other times poignant but obviously also means that often you have to work your mind a little to understand them. Appreciating it all depends on the listener's penchant for such things but in the end it's an inconsequential issue because the songs seem no less captivating.

"Augment" is a massive metalcore record and a potential game changer for the band. It displays a solid technical brilliance not mired in convolution, deft touches of brutality instantly covered in bright melodies ever so assured and satisfying. And what's even more remarkable is that Erra achieve this despite an absence of reinvention of the wheel, using the same recognisable ingredients as everybody else only assembled in a far superior fashion. Pretty damning when you think of the more successful yet also more generic bigger names in the field who are content to play it safe.

9

Download: Frostbite, Spirited Away, Dementia
For the fans of: Periphery, Misery Signals, Saosin, Secret & Whisper
Listen: Facebook

Release date 29.10.2013
Tragic Hero Records

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