Artist: Death of an Era
Album: The Great Commonwealth (EP)
When I say “electronic” metalcore, chances are, you–the reader–have two instinctual reactions. The first is a flinch, likely a feedback from the clenching in your gut. Instantly, your mind flies back to the days of Attack Attack!’s “Stick Stickly,” and the good ol’ Crabcore phenomenon. The second reaction is one of skepticism: Is this just some synth with some breakdowns, or is it just metalcore with a couple little electronic interludes? Is there really anything to see here? The answer is a resounding “yes!” from Columbus’ Death of an Era, and their breakout EP The Great Commonwealth. Laden with creative, lacerating fretwork, visceral vocals and stunning, glitchy electronics, this release not only breathes fresh life into a tired and over-done cliché, but solidifies Death of an Era’s position in the metalcore ranks as “prodigal.”
The Great Commonwealth’s instrumental interplay is not to be overlooked, even though they have bountiful appeal as an electronic act. The guitars dance around one another like phantoms, while the bass rumbles beneath them in the basement with a thick and meaty candor. “American Dictation” is a stunning example of this: the introductory riff is absolutely demolishing, while the bass guitar pops up for air several times in the track to provide creative, low-end fill work when the drums just don’t quite cut it. That isn’t to take anything away from the pounding, pummeling percussion, however. “Create, Sustain” and “Shapeshifter” especially feature stunning drumming which takes center stage, keeping the tracks roaring along at a breakneck pace. With all the masterful musicianship abound in the album, the electronic work at some point even seems…uneeded. Djenty, Volumes-esque riff writing works alongside, deep, Sworn In-styled tuning to create a unique blend of sounds which has one foot in the ethereal and technical, while the other is knee deep in a quagmire of grime and filth.
Speaking of grime and filth, Death of an Era are practically millionaires when it comes to deep, low-down and dirty vocal work. The growls and bellows accompany the heavy, slimy grooves which are abound on the album, and take brief breaks only to provide soothing, crooned clean-vocal support. “American Dictation” stands out in this field, as well. Just when the listener feels their lungs clogging with the slimy, gruesome low-end growls, a catchy and melodic cleanly-sung section swoops in to save the day. Where Death of an Era are truly masterful is not necessarily the quality of the singing (which is superb, by the way), but the timing thereof. It doesn’t last long enough to ruin the pervasive vibe of heaviness and crush, nor does it seem contrived and forced. It simply is. It shines like a flashlight in the darkness, illuminating only what it has to, before it is switched off to let the listener once more become engulfed in bitter blackness. These vocals work akin to the electronic element which The Great Commonwealth is smattered with; neither suffocating nor absent, it exists right where it needs to, when it needs to.
The electronics on Death of an Era’s The Great Commonwealth are, without a doubt, the keystone to their dynamic as a band. While they could certainly stand proudly on two feet without them, they serve as strong legs, rather than ones that need crutches, supporting the band’s stance and their ability to hold their heads high in the metalcore scene. “American Dictation,” (which, if you aren’t getting by now, is the EP’s standout track) does this well to boot. The song is sprinkled with delectably glitchy atmospheric effects which take over as punctual fill work to lead into the next crushing breakdown or soothing break. Furthermore, they work in sync with the vocals and the low-down-and-dirty groove provided by the guitars as a mediator. When the glitching, popping electronics chime in, the guitars fade to the background, and the vocal mode shifts–either to clean singing, or a different tone of scream. While “American Dictation” does this archetypically, “A Mother’s Love” is also well-gifted in this area, as, truthfully, the whole EP is.
Don’t let your 8th grade, banana-strip and snakebite phase scare you off: Death of an Era’s The Great Commonwealth is an intelligent, thought-filled and simply stunning work of electronically-fueled metalcore art. With catchy riffs, catchier vocal work, and glitchy, electronic elements which are just…awesome, skipping out on this release would not simply be a loss, but it would be the death of your judgement.
For Fans Of: Sworn In, Volumes, The Browning, A Bullet for Pretty Boy
By: Connor Welsh