Artist: Walking With Strangers
Global activism has flourished in the 21st century—and rightfully so. The clearer it is that our race has done irreparable damage to our planet, the greater the call for action must be to stop before it becomes truly too late. Men and women who thought recycling was a joke made up by the hippies of the 60’s and 70’s now swear by it, and even children’s television is laced with messages reinforcing benevolence towards our environment and respect to our surroundings. Fittingly, music has seen a figurative “greening” as well—with Terra serving as a swell example. The latest full length album by Sweden’s second-to-none progressive metalcore act is the latest album to join a growing movement enforcing global responsibility. Laden with riffs sharper than buzz saws and moments of serene atmosphere that rival nature’s most majestic beauties, Terra is a call for climate awareness and a light shining upon mankind’s earthly atrocities that fans of heavy music will not only listen to, but not be able to get enough of.
Terra is an instrumental chimaera as diverse and entrancing as nature itself. “Cleyra” is an immersive, energetic anthem that is as destructive as a hurricane and frantic as a wildfire. Here, percussionist Mikael Norén shines, battering the listener about like a feather in a tornado. Leading tracks such as “Cleyra” and “False Flag” with fill-heavy, hectic drumming, Norén is a juggernaut, bashing away until the listener is practically senseless. However, tracks such as the peaceful closer, “Terra” and the sparse interludes dotted throughout “Lifestream” and “Cold North” see Norén in a different light. Here, he is jazzy and moderate, working hand in hand with bassist Christian Höijer to soothe the open sores Norén made with his sharp, hurried percussion. Höijer has moments of hustled, grimy grooving (“False Flag,” especially)—but his greatest assets are the times where he provides a calming, collected sense of peace, often times coating Norén’s drumming with silk and cutting through the ambient portions of guitarists Chris Lennartsson and Pontus Johanssen’s varied fretwork. The greatest source of Walking With Strangers’ incredible diversity and instrumental intensity stems from the efforts of these two—showing immense maturation since the days of Buried, Dead and Done to create portions of technical brilliance that work perfectly alongside moments of ethereal calm. “Cleyra,” along with the rip-roaring “Powerless” are excellent examples of the duo’s more technical and aggressive moments, weaving riffs into ruthless breakdowns with the talent of a veteran seamstress. The album’s self titled track, again, however, is an excellent example of the exact opposite: Dream-like, drifting riffs wrap themselves around Höijer and Norén’s jazzy backbone, mesmerizing the listener with pure tranquility.
With Terra’s progressive metalcore musicianship being a spectacle in itself, the listener might not expect the vocals to play an enormous part in the album’s excellence. They would be mistaken. Vocalist Robin Schulz is ruthless from start to finish, punishing the listener with raspy, ravaging mid-range yells that let the listener follow along with every word, truly getting a complete grasp on Walking With Strangers’ earth-friendly message and incredibly passionate lyricism. Schulz pours his heart out on each and every track—from the climactic breakdown to the closing words of “Shattered,” he is honest and emotional, compromising his deepest thoughts and feelings for the listener to get the full thrust of. At times, his voice raises to an almost-clean vocal style, gritty and raw, yet oddly comforting. “Carry the World” exemplifies this, as does “Cold North,” syncopating with the album’s more subtle and serene
instrumentation to give the listener the closest thing to “rest” they’re liable to get before “Terra” carries them away, battered and broken.
Superficially, Terra hits like a standard fare progressive metalcore record. After a couple listens, however, the listener realizes it is much more than that. Walking With Strangers combine countless tiny details and nuanced pieces to create something much greater than the sum of its parts. A brilliant example is the twinkling keys chirping in the background of the otherwise intense lead single, “False Flag.” These keys are indeed a false sense of security, sounding like something out of a children’s nursery tune—but adding flair and drama to one of Terra’s heaviest and hardest tracks. In this manner, Walking With Strangers add miniature moments of marvel to each song, keeping the listener hooked until the closing sample in the opulent, entrancing “Terra.”
Rather than a violent call to arms or the voice behind a campaign of hate an aggression, Walking With Strangers are a creative, energetic call for change. Terra is an anthem for the earth that will find a home in the heads of hundreds of heavy music enthusiasts, effecting change with each second.
For Fans Of: In Hearts Wake, Northlane, Volumes, Earth Caller
By: Connor Welsh