“1412, are you ready for your next session? You’ve been very upset lately, we just want to help you”.

You’re disgusted. You were put in a hospital against your will because they all thought you were crazy. But you’re not crazy, are you?

You’re just feeling a little down.  Nothing out of the ordinary, just a daily helping of rage. Of hatred. Of agony.

Agony isn’t just all you feel. It’s the newest single from Streamwood, IL’s nu-metalcore nu-comers, EMPATHY.

Those of you reading that are familiar with VCTMS will undoubtedly already know about this new project, being the new side project for VCTMS guitarist Anthony Williams, but this time the voice behind the madness is vocalist Ernesto Yebra, who is a very welcome addition to the nu-metalcore fold.  Pulling influence from genre titans Barrier and Yuth Forever as well as more melodic acts a-la Reflections and the Contortionist, Empathy manages to put a fresh, progressive twist on patented mental instability.

Agony is the first of many sessions from Empathy’s debut EP, Running From Happiness, written from the perspective of a patient known simply as 1412. Serving as an introduction to the story, multi-instrumentalist Anthony Williams brings intensity and anguish into the sonic realm. From the first panic-inducing pitch-shifted leads to the grimy, violent pseudo two-step (aided by VCTMS vocalist John Matalone), Williams cuts the listener down with relentless riffing and cruel chugging, overlapping one another as tastefully as possible. Every last slammy riff, crushing breakdown, and whiplash inducing drum beat is given extra heft to it with Williams’ bass tone, shining brightly through the mix, paired perfectly with his thick, crisp kick drum. Each pop of the snare feels like a nail in the listener’s skull, putting them on the slab right alongside 1412.

“1412, you’re acting very irrationally. We can always sedate you so you don’t have to feel the ghosts in the walls trying to drag you in. It’s all in your head.  We’re here to help you, 1412. You can’t help yourself.”

But they’re lying to you. They don’t want to help you, they want to hurt you and you’re sure of it. But what if they’re right, what if you are crazy?

Serving as the disenchanted and broken, bitter backbone of 1412 is vocalist Ernesto Yebra.  From the first shrill yelps of the song, the listener is put in the therapist’s chair, as 1412 is brought to life in front of their very own eyes. Falling somewhere between Barrier’s David Libert and Eavesdropper’s Logan Beaver, Yebra’s constantly-cracking voice adds the emotional grit and realism necessary to drive the point of the song home. Each last word spewed from his craw feels like a knife wound in the back, burning and stinging like someone poured an entire bag of salt in each wound. Venomous as all hell, he works alongside Matalone perfectly and succeeds at sucking the listener’s drive away, reducing them to the same nameless, hollow shell of a person that 1412 is. Yebra may lack in range, almost exclusively shouting and yelping his way through the just-under-three-minute run time, but he more than makes up for it in honesty and urgency.

“You’ve forced our hand, patient 1412. You refuse to calm down, you’re a danger to yourself and all of us. Prepare for your new, more aggressive treatment. You’ll be normal again in no time.”

You know what they’re going to do. They’ve stripped you of your name, your identity, your humanity, and now they want to take away your will. They’re going to kill you. They’re going to make you just another number on a toe tag. And as scared as you are, you somehow want it.

Agony is a breath of fresh air, a conceptual debut single that gives us an excellent first chapter of the story. Fans of VCTMS will be hard-pressed to find anything to critique, and new listeners will be impressed with Williams’ mastery of nu-metal madness. Assisted perfectly by Matalone, Yebra and Williams have crafted an exciting first experience for the listener, giving just enough of story to 1412 to keep me waiting for more.


For Fans Of: Witness, Barrier, VCTMS