Review Summary: Who knew Math could sound so good3 of 3 thought this review was well written
During the late 90’s/early 00’s the mainstream rock/metal landscape was being saturated by homogenous slabs of Nu-Metal with the likes of Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Korn etc. However the underground scene was producing much more interesting bands, one in particular being earthtone9. earthtone9 provided listeners with a melding of sounds ranging from spiritual melody to raw heaviness, coming across as a sort of love child between Helmet, Deftones and Tool. Having slowly built steam in the underground community with their highly praised “lo-def(inition) discord” earthtone9 would eventually come to create “arc’tan’gent”. Sadly however whether it be due to the landscape of metal at the time or a lack of marketing, earthtone9 never got the chance to truly bask in the limelight of their mainstream counterparts and shortly after disbanded with only one EP release after “arc’tan’gent”.
The most popular single off the album “Tat Twam Asi” serves as the opener and a basic display of what their core sound is. From the opening tribal drumbeats set by Simon Hutchby and eerie chanting of Karl Middleton, earthtone9 provide a track filled with their own unique atmosphere. This atmosphere is carried throughout the album and makes the album sound fresh even with their influences on full display. One of earthtone9’s more distinguishing features has always been vocalist Karl Middleton as his vocal style is rather familiar yet distinguished; vocals on tracks can range from throaty screams to soft emotional singing which helps make his vocal work become very recognisable. Instrumentally everything is played well adding to the atmosphere such as the slow hypnotic drone of “Yellow Fever” and the bouncy high tempo found in “Star Damage for Beginners”. However something that can put off some listeners is that some tracks have a tendency to not build on their full potential, for example the track “P.R.D Chaos” has a slow melodic verse that builds up to a rather standard rock focused chorus that feels a like it could have been given a little something more to make it truly special. Also the final track “Binary 101” feels a little too lengthy and could have had a minute or two shaven off it to make it a more focused track.
Production is made to give everything a rough yet rather ghostly quality, which suits the atmosphere that earthtone9 deliver in spades. The songwriting on this album never reaches anything that is amazingly complex in terms of technicality instead focusing on the subtleties whether it be certain guitar/vocal effects or brief flashes of texture placed in the right moments such as the bridge of “Tat Twam Asi”. This type of songwriting fits naturally into earthtone9’s style. The choice of songwriting can be an issue for some as they may desire something offering more technicality and might feel as though this album would benefit from more deviations into other genres and styles in order to stave repetition, however this mainly comes down to personal preference. In terms of length, “arc’tan’gent” only rarely loses its pace throughout the 47 minute run time, most notably as previously mentioned in the final track. That being said it still remains an engaging listen for the most part.
earthtone9 delivered an album that should have made them one of the bigger names in alternative metal during the period of its release however as it stands “arc’tan’gent” is an underappreciated gem that’s filled with an eerie atmosphere, great songwriting and only a few missteps. Fans of alternative metal should definitely check it out.