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Erra - Erra review


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Band: Erra
Album: Erra
Release date: March 2021

01. Snowblood
02. Gungrave
03. Divisionary
04. House Of Glass
05. Shadow Autonomous
06. Electric Twilight
07. Scorpion Hymn
08. Lunar Halo
09. Vanish Canvas
10. Eidolon
11. Remnant
12. Memory Fiction

At their best, self-titled albums in the middle of a band's career serve as a triumphant encapsulation of the band's best attributes to date. Is this the case with Erra?

Erra are one of a glut of progressive metalcore bands that emerged in the tail end of the 2000s and beginning of the 2010s, with the good cop/bad cop vocal approach and energetic riffing of metalcore combined with elaborate guitar work and, in many cases, pummeling djent-based complex rhythmic assaults. However, whilst Erra did incorporate aspects of djent into their sound, the approach they took on early records Impulse and particularly Augment helped differentiate them from their peers, with Augment featuring a vibrant sound and distinct songwriting approach, making it one of my favorite records from the progressive metalcore scene. By the release of Neon in 2018 (their first with current harsh vocalist J.T. Cavey), however, a lot of this distinctive personality had disappeared; although I enjoyed the album, I felt that the band were becoming closer to their peers and losing some of what made them special. Erra is the group's second outing with Cavey, and whilst I feel that it's an improvement on Neon, there's still something lacking here.

I seem to be in a minority on that front, as a check of the metalcore subreddit whilst first listening to the album on release day revealed almost unanimous praise for the record; it was pretty much heralded as the pinnacle of metalcore, the final step on the path to perfection. I must confess myself to be slightly baffled by this, as even discounting biases based on my feelings towards their previous work or similar artists, I think Erra is by no means a perfect album, with the likes of "Shadow Autonomous" and "Memory Fiction" falling short of the best songs on the album. Still, the album is a good effort for the genre, with solid riffs, impressive guitar lead work liberally incorporated throughout, and a pair of strong vocalists in Cavey and clean vocalist/guitarist Jesse Cash.

My problems with the album come more from how relatively unremarkable I find it when compared with other artists in the genre. When I listen to Augment, I don't find myself naturally drawing parallels to similar artists; it's an album with a clear and unique identity. On Erra, I find myself regularly being reminded of the likes of Northlane, Polaris and particularly Architects; the vocal work on "House Of Glass" and heavier sections of "Eidolon" most heavily brought the latter band to mind. The current approach of Erra is heavier, djent-ier and more aggressive than their earlier work, and as a result it more naturally raises comparisons to other big names in the field. There's also elements of specific songs that had a similar effect, whether it's the similarity of "Vanish Canvas" in its softer moments to some of Periphery's more accessible songs, or the overt influence of the likes of Sithu Aye and Plini in some of the lead guitar work, especially in the solo on "Remnant".

Now, the last paragraph was very much an 'old man yells at cloud' rant about similarities to other bands; is this an issue in and of itself? Not necessarily, as I like most of the bands I just named, and I also believe there's still plenty of scope for writing great music in their styles. However, these similarities highlighted to me that I just wasn't clicking with a lot of these songs in the way that I would hope, or that I've clicked with similar songs from those other artists.

The album starts off rather strongly with "Snowblood" and "Gungrave", two hook-laden, heavy-hitting tracks that show that Erra can be very potent when writing with their current approach. Beyond those songs, however, I find myself less and less enamored with the album as it progresses. The album, particularly compared to Augment, is rather varied in terms of intensity, with several songs on the softer end of the spectrum to contrast the moody djent dirge of "Scorpion Hymn" and relentlessly technical guitar work on "Eidolon". I don't feel like these softer songs really play to Erra's strengths, however; metalcore has long received complaints from 'true' metal fans for being whiny or immature, and personally that's not something that I pay much attention to, but there were a few moments here where I found some of the cleaner vocals to be whiny, for lack of a better word, with them grating as a result. I also think "Memory Fiction", the closing track, contains some of the less appealing traits of metalcore bands' attempts at soft ballad-esque tracks.

Like the review I just wrote for Neurotech's Solace, the tone of my writing here is harsher than how I actually feel about the album as a whole. I think Erra is a reasonable enough effort from one of the strongest bands in the prog-metalcore sphere, and one that contains a lot of enjoyable tracks, with a few exciting highlights. However, it's an album that feels like it could've come from a number of bands within the field, and for a self-titled album, I find that to be a bit of an issue. However, this doesn't seem to be a commonly held opinion outside of this website, so if you find this style appealing, you might get a lot more out of Erra than I have so far.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 6
Production: 8

Written on 21.03.2021 by Hey chief let's talk why not

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