March 19, 2021 ERRA – ERRA (Album Review)
Self-reflection, confrontation, and a talented band standing on the precipice of something enormous. That’s what fans can expect from ERRA’s latest, the self-titled Erra, when it arrives on Friday, March 19, 2021 via UNFD.
Birmingham, Alabama isn’t exactly known as a mecca for Progressive Metalcore, but Erra (who often stylize their name in caps) is working to change that. Formed there in 2009 by a group of high school friends, the quintet wasted no time in self-releasing their self-titled, debut EP that same year. Motivated and driven to improve their craft, ERRA pushed onward and delivered their full-length debut, Impulse, in 2011.
As is often the case, changes occurred in their line-up and with their label support, but the band persevered to deliver three additional LPs—2013’s Augment, 2016’s Drift, and 2018’s Neon. With an ever-growing audience taking notice of their technical zest and infectious melodies, much in thanks to touring with the likes of Dance Gavin Dance and August Burns Red, ERRA has finally reached the next chapter in their evolution, and it’s a self-titled onslaught of emotion.
Marking their UNFD debut, and fifth overall full-length, ERRA—Vocalist J.T. Cavey, Guitarist/Vocalist Jesse Cash, Bassist Conor Hesse, Guitarist Sean Price, and Drummer Alex Ballew—is set to offer fans even more monumental riffs and harsh breakdowns alongside the entrancing melodies and immersive soundscapes that have won over fans across the globe. Produced by Grammy Award nominated duo Grant McFarland and Carson Slovak (August Burns Red, From Ashes To New), the 12-song Erra is proof positive of a band who has rediscovered themselves.
While Erra will go on to toy with the varying extremes of the band’s sound, the quintet choose to open with “Snowblood.” Here, entrancing synth-work ushers listeners into the body of the track, exploding into full-on Metal mayhem. Though it’s not a feel-good offering, but rather one that paints a macabre picture, it offers technical flourishes and Djent-y undertones alongside catchy melodies and a lofty guitar solo. In this, the mélange of elements that create the track formulate a great representation of what is to follow.
And what follows often pairs brutal sonics with emotionality (“Gungrave,” “Eidolon”), sometimes offering a ray of hope in the strangest of sensations (“Shadow Autonomous”). There are plenty of moments that allow the members of ERRA to flaunt their superior musicianship (“Remnant”), often occurring in the more Prog Metal-influenced moments. Like “Divisionary,” which plays with the parallels of technology and religion, and “House of Glass,” which looks at “the seemingly heightened sensationalism of suicide” through the lens of our politically divisive state. The latter allows the band to utilize their abilities to mimic the never-ending cycle of society, reflecting it back to listeners with vicious yet flashy breakdowns.
But there are also plenty of melodic offerings, songs that allow the band to show their depth and range, both musically and lyrically. Like the atmospheric and languid “Electric Twilight,” and “Vanish Canvas,” which is enormous in a very different sense of the term. With its glimmering guitars it offers plenty of melody as Cash sings of lessons imparted: “Don’t let this moment break your heart, something greater to impart.”
Meanwhile, the journeys through “Lunar Halo” and the genre-defying album closer, “Memory Fiction,” must be experienced for oneself, and stand as perfect testaments to what ERRA can do when they allow themselves to fully embrace their experimental spirit. Although, admittedly, they likely will not appeal to every fan, and so the band is careful to find a balance by offering one of their most aggressive offerings to date, “Scorpion Hymn,” a sinister stomp through “a dream once hopeful, now a conduit of self-hatred.”
While it’s easy to see that the band draws eclectic influences from the likes of Saosin and August Burns Red, they never grow derivative or allow themselves to become a carbon copy. So, to some extent, Erra becomes an exercise in extremes: from the incendiary to the fragile, it allows ERRA to prove that they can offer a delicious array of soundscapes all in one cohesive package. Paired with poetic and cerebral lyrical explorations, juxtaposing lofty melodies with vicious howls, but always maintaining a sincerity of emotion, ERRA use their 12 newest tracks to prove that they should not be ignored. A siren song for these underdogs, Cryptic Rock gives Erra 4.5 of 5 stars.