Album: Eternal – EP
We live in a time where things aren’t really made to last anymore. In an era where new smart phone models come out every three months, cars are subject to more recall notices than one can count, and dime-a-dozen movie sequels are crafted in place of new, original stories, we seem to have veered away from the sensation of permanence—or at least that’s what one might think before exposing themselves to Eternal. The latest EP from Petroglyphs serves as their crowning achievement, ushering them in as titans of technicality with a penchant for picturesque, fluid song structure that allows even their most ruthless portions of back breaking aggression to soar as serenely as a ballerina—even as they hit harder than a wrecking ball. The result? A brief—but brilliant—conglomeration of crushing heaviness and soul-stirring beauty that is sure to remain as timeless as the ancient stone carvings that serve as the band’s namesake.
To begin with, it’s important to point out that Petroglyphs are prodigally talented musicians. They take three tracks—a mere eleven minutes—and cover everything from brutalizing beatdown-influenced heaviness to surreal, star-studded ethereality that makes the listener feel as if they are floating in a galactic microcosm. Guitarists Chris Biermans and Spencer Jenkins are the main source of the enormous degree of diverse instrumentation throughout Eternal. Biermans and Jenkins range from groove-oriented riffing and chugging—pervasive throughout the crushing climactic sequence of “Perception”—to soaring sections of shred and ethereal, drifting moments of melancholy harmonization and enormous overarching melodies. “Veil” showcases the latter brilliantly, allowing Biermans and Jenkins to serve as the main bridge between the EP’s two bastions of brutal, brilliant content. Beneath the twin eagles that are Biermans and Jenkins lies Petroglyphs’ percussive and low elements: drummer Alex Opdyke and bassist Aaron Espinosa. Opdyke and Espinosa serve as anchors to the figurative birds of prey that are Petroglyph’s furiously fretted leads. When it comes to bouncy, fill-laden percussive mastery, Opdyke is simply at the top of his game; “Wake” is a non-stop lesson in incredible drumming, ranging from off-time, atypical beats to drop-of-a-dime fills that send the listener flying out of their seat. Right alongside him is Espinosa, plunking and plodding away with a curiously heavy-footed, brash type of grace that many bassists would do well to learn from. Together, Opdyke and Espinosa serve as the band’s anchor and chain—giving Eternal’s instrumentation enough slack to soar skywards and reach true brilliance, but heavy enough to keep a constant, crushing low end throughout the entire EP.
As Petroglyphs’ musicianship is masterfully complex and wildly variable, their vocal element is a constant, crushing force that provides direction and intent during even the most willy-nilly portions of instrumental intensity. Spencer Walden provides a strong source of power and energy that serves as the band’s drive—a constant roar that pushes all of the instrumental elements into the listener’s head with a relentless aggression. Whether it’s the maelstrom-inducing shout that sends “Perception” ripping into full-tilt insanity or his chill-inducing roar throughout the opening sequence of “Wake,” his harsh, hoarse tone is a constant in an EP where all instrumental elements are in constant flux. However, there is more to Walden—and Petroglyphs—than just a harsh yell: Eternal is also home to a display of crooned clean singing–courtesy of Biermans–that unleashes soaring, melodic syllables that shine amid a sea of otherwise gruff-and-tough shouts and screams. Between clean singing and crushing screams, Petroglyphs provide enough vocal variety to avoid monotony, while keeping the band focused and directed.
The true brilliance behind Petroglyphs’ ability to maintain instrumental diversity and a constant vocal focus is that they manage to do it in a way that lets Eternal reach its true potential and encompass a broad variety of “-core” styles and influences. Portions like the picturesque serenity in “Wake” feel akin to a post-rock epic, with sprawling guitar lines and rolling, soft percussion. Meanwhile, the opening portion in the self-same track, or the climax of “Perception” are lessons in no-holds-barred heaviness, as Petroglyphs let loose with punishing chugs and piercing, pointed percussion. While beating away at the listener with sledge hammers and baseball bats of instrumental brutality, Walden leads with gruff, throat-peeling vocals that scour the listener’s ears like steel wool. At other times, when Petroglyphs opt for their pretty-and-twinkly style of progressive metalcore, Walden follows suit, staying silent, letting the instruments do the talking, or letting Biermans take the limelight by singing cleanly with unbridled passion and unrivaled beauty. In this manner, Petroglyphs are dynamic and bright in their approach to making music in a genre where so many efforts are one-dimensional and dull.
Carved with the utmost care and cast with tumultuous timelessness, Petroglyphs are one of the few bands in modern progressive metalcore that are truly permanent—let Eternal be proof. Even as it is brief, it is brilliant, shining brightly with moments of stellar serenity, yet hitting hard with back-busting breakdowns and spine-shrinking grooves. As other releases from nameless bands fade into the background, Petroglyphs’ EP will be truly eternal.
For Fans Of: Erra, Northlane, MaybeSheWill, For The Fallen Dreams, Misery Signals
By: Connor Welsh