To drift generally implies directionless, passive movement—a venture on which you are nothing more than a passenger to current and the whims of Mother Nature. This sort of ethereal atmosphere is exactly what Alabama-based metalcore outfit Erra capture on their aptly named full-length of the same name—however, where Drift might imply smooth sailing and transience, this quartet have different plans. Combining crystal clear clean guitar lines with segments of raunchy dissonance and gritty, downtuned groove, Erra take the listener on a voyage—a drift with purpose that drags the listener through serene tide pools and ferocious undertow alike, tearing flesh yet tending to their wounds almost simultaneously, creating a heavy-soft dynamic that ebbs and flows just the same as a tide.
Where Erra draw their name from the Akkadian embodiment of mayhem and chaos, the progressively inclined quartet are not so two-dimensional. Where Erra are no doubt energetic, they oscillate between frenzied, furious heaviness and tranquility with practiced expertise. Percussionist Alex Ballew guides the band between the two styles—beating away with the fervor and ferocity of the energizer bunny on opening tracks “Luminesce” and “Irreversible,” yet slowing things down and creating lofty atmosphere on lengthier songs like “Continuum” and “Safehaven.” Ballew’s bold drumming is the flexible—yet unbreakable—backbone to Drift, guiding each song, yet leaving enough open space for guitarists Jesse Cash and Sean Price to do what they do best. Erra are a band who have made a name for themselves in the progressive metalcore scene primarily for their diverse guitar work and incredible songwriting ability—something which Cash and Price keep up on Drift. The opening licks of “Luminesce” are an excellent example—catchy and creative, those looping notes come back several times throughout the track, fitting in during quick grooves as well as they did on their own at the introduction to the song. At several points, Cash and Price astound the listener—and “Luminesce” is, quite literally, just the beginning. “Drift” is positively mesmerizing throughout the song’s entirety—while “The Hypnotist” flows from jarring, sporadic breakdowns to haunting, ethereal leads without skipping a beat. Fans of the duo’s work on Erra’s previous work will not be let down, as Drift contains some of their strongest fretwork yet.
If it isn’t Erra’s enormous guitar playing that draws the listener to them, it is undoubtedly the band’s reputation for incredible vocals—and again, Drift, for the most part, is right on the money. Featuring JT Cavey—newcomer to Erra but a veteran to the metalcore scene—the band’s vocal dynamic is stronger than ever, with guitarist Cash’s soaring clean vocals and Cavey’s ruthless low-to-mid range yells. Occasionally, the band’s lyrics are a bit corny (if not entirely too melodramatic—see “Hourglass” or “Drift”) but when they aren’t, they are beautifully written and insanely catchy. Cavey’s roars before the climactic breakdown of “Irreversible” show that he hasn’t lost his touch for bringing intensity to every syllable he shouts—while Cash’s clean choruses and hooks during “Skyline” and “Savehaven” are breathtaking to say the least. Even with the occasional lyrical misstep, Cavey and Cash’s performance is incredible, preserving Erra’s spot at the top of progressive metalcore’s vocal hierarchy.
Drift is a journey through still waters and roaring tides alike. While electrifying tracks like “Luminesce” and “Irreversible” are concentrated bursts of adrenaline, the tail end of the album is much more serene—with songs like “Skyline” and “Drift” joining the two styles together beautifully. Some songs on Erra’s latest offering are less memorable—“Hourglass,” “Orchid” and “Sleeper” come to mind—sounding like blander cuts that barely made it onto the album, saved by one or two brilliant riffs or a catchy chorus. Because of this, Drift feels as if it might spend too much time in the shallows in stead of plunging the listener into more turbulent and intriguing waters. Even so, the album is a full-bodied and entertaining endeavor, seeing Erra hit new highs on several fronts—instrumentally, vocally and lyrically. Where the album’s name might lull you into a premonition of boredom, don’t fall for it—Drift is still dancy, dissonant and punchy enough to make tidal waves out of tide pools.
For Fans Of: Volumes, In Hearts Wake, Northlane, Veil of Maya
By: Connor Welsh