Fairly often, a band’s breakout record also happens to be their self-titled record (if they do ever release a self-titled record). In some share of these cases, it’s probably a combination of laziness and time crunch compelling the band to forsake a unique name and just push it out. Where long-standing progressive metalcore juggernauts ERRA are concerned, however, they’ve saved their self-titled release for one over ten years into their tenure as an established act. The product is an outstanding release, churning on for the better part of an hour, covering everything from riff-driven chimeras perfectly blending progressive metal with metalcore to melancholic, moody cuts. Where for some, the self-titled record is a cop out of sorts, these Alabama aggressors use their self-titled for a different purpose: the title for their magnum opus to date, as ERRA stands to be the strongest and most cohesive group of songs the band has issued since their inception.
ERRA is a dynamic blend of textbook progressive metalcore with a twist only experience and refinement can bring. In the nearly three years that bridged the gap between the somewhat underwhelming Neon and their forthcoming release, ERRA worked tirelessly on distilling the utmost essence of their sound and style while simultaneously expanding into previously unexplored realms. The result are songs like “Snowblood” and “Gungrave”—familiar in their outright aggression, but with renewed vigor—juxtaposed against songs like “Eidolon” or “Remnant,” which take that aggression and balance it with moments that are, simply, breathtaking in their beauty. “Gungrave” sees percussionist Alex Ballew beating away with blistering speed, while “Scorpion Hymn” and “Eidolon” see a more subtle display of his skill, balancing speed with technically marvels fills and a pronounced ability to stay cleanly within a defined pocket. “Eidolon,” as well as “Memory Fiction” both see Ballew working well with bassist Conor Hesse, who adds bounce and groove in the same fashion that he manages to add grit and heft. Other songs—the aforementioned “Snowblood” especially—see Hesse focusing on amplifying the ferocious, low chugs of Jesse Cash and Sean Price while still maintaining a fluid, strong low end. Cash and Price have been essential to ERRA—Cash especially, as one of only two original members—as their work has defined the balance between aggression and ethereality that allows ERRA to stand out within the genre. ERRA sees that dynamic continue to improve on multiple levels; first and foremost, when one considers the entire record as a “big picture,” Cash and Price weave songs based in frantic aggression hither and to between more melodic and atmospheric cuts. “Shadow Autonomous” is an outstanding example of such, with the duo’s fretwork simply shining throughout the sprawling track. Other songs—“Eidolon” especially—illustrate a second point; even within a single track, the duo (working outstandingly with Ballew and Hesse) oscillate expertly between heaviness and harmony; in short, they are the crown jewel of ERRA’s robust instrumental dynamic.
ERRA’s vocal aspect, while equally important as their instrumental element, is one that’s been subject to much more scrutiny throughout their lifespan. With the addition of J.T. Cavey in 2016 and their subsequent release Drift, ERRA launched into…well, a new era. ERRA sees Cavey continue to grow, including more singing alongside his riveting and diverse range of screams. What’s more, songs like “Memory Fiction” see ERRA explore more within their cleanly sung styles, creating an emotional, catchy and supremely poignant album closer. Other songs—like “Lunar Halo” see Cavey’s screams trading off in rapid sequence with singing from Cash, maintaining and energetic and catchy atmosphere to some of their moderately aggressive segments. This vocal dynamism plays to the lyrical variety within the record as well—touching on everything from love and loss to dependence on technology and the futility of modern warfare (not the Activision game series, although that also applies). The lyrical dynamism ensures that listeners don’t get too weighed down in the throes of standard-fare progressive metalcore lyricism (although lines about lights and prisms and geometry do show up, skeptics be warned)—and what’s more, much of it is really damn good, even in the context of ERRA’s already strong lyrical background.
ERRA feels like the record ERRA have needed to make since their inception. It is exceptionally balanced, and the front and back third of the record is some of the best progressive metalcore content to drop in recent history. While the middle does become a little…well, complacent for a band capable of songs like “Snowblood” and “Eidolon,” it remains strong all the same. While Neon may have fallen short of its mark, especially following Drift, ERRA is the band’s most outstanding work to date, and a record truly prominent and discography-defining enough to earn the self-titled nomenclature.
For Fans Of: Northlane, Of Glaciers, August Burns Red, Sentinels
By: Connor Welsh