Review Summary: A must-listen for anyone who likes their metal to be intelligent and challenging.
A long time ago…
I was a freshman foreign student in a tiny liberal arts college in Southern California and was being introduced to the North American music scene. I am coming to realize that I like A Perfect Circle and Shadows Fall but am ambivalent about Slipknot and The Mars Volta. But, I am learning that the retro rock of The Darkness and Jet probably isn’t the pinnacle of music. One of my chaperones into the world of modern music is trying to talk me into going to SOMA in San Diego to watch one of her favourite bands, Underminded (I think), play. She is, however, a big fan of Avenged Sevenfold (pre-lead singer losing his voice), and I’m not a fan of A7X (pre-lead singer losing his voice) so I’m not really keen to listen to this band that she likes so much. Finally she talks me into going by telling me about Underminded’s hot-chick lead-guitarist.
We go to the show, and the lead-guitarist is indeed pretty hot, and an intimidatingly good guitarist to boot. She’s also wearing this glowing ring which she tosses to me
after Underminded’s set. Naturally, I assume that was how she picked up her groupies at shows. I am psyched, and am going to find her under the pretence of returning her ring in order to chat her up. But then the final band of the night takes the stage. I know nothing of this band, called Etched in Red, but you know something big is about to happen when a noticeable hush settles over a previously raucous metalhead crowd. I am about halfway out of the auditorium when Etched in Red starts playing. About 30 seconds later I have forgotten all about the ring and Underminded’s lead-guitarist.
Now you must remember that I had only just
begun listening to music that wasn’t classic rock, hair metal or grunge. Etched in Red are none of those things. They are an alternative metal band in the vein of Tool with some nu metal and metalcore influences. Definitely not the kind of music I was really into at the time, but the band still blew me away and I remember leaving that show wondering if I had just seen the next biggest band in the world. It turns out that I was wrong. Nearly ten years later, the band still remains unknown and is working on its second album. This boggles my mind, especially considering how good the band’s debut album is and how good they are as a live act.
There is honestly very little I can critique about Etched in Red’s debut album. They don’t exactly have a groundbreaking sound, but their instrumental abilities, strong compositional skills and vocalist Seth Boyce’s knack for melody and consistently engaging delivery, which utilises cleans and harshes with equal aplomb, elevates the band far above your run-of-the mill alt metal band. Every band member gets to shine over the course of the album, with plenty of bass driven grooves, fancy double-bass drum fills, complex time-signature changes and sweet guitar licks. Etched in Red flirts with a mainstream sense of accessibility on songs such as Glaive
and The Six
but even these songs contain plenty of surprises like the escalating intensity of the vocals in the former and the gorgeous tapped guitar motif of the latter. Intrasection
features an cool percussive tapped riff that immediately grabs attention and L.E.D
boasts a quintessential prog metal structure with each individual section representing a complete change in mood from the section preceding it. It may sound simplistic, but the band’s ability to change mood and ambience on a dime is a thing of beauty. These dynamic changes play out to some extent over every song on the album, turning each track into a mini-epic in its own right.
The harshest criticism that can be offered about Dylate
is that often the band sounds a little too close to Tool in terms of its guitar and bass sound, and occasionally too close to the Deftones in ambience and vocals. But, to be perfectly frank, this isn’t much of a criticism at all because of the quality of the musicianship present on the album. Etched in Red might be disciples of the afore-mentioned bands, but they’re a very, very good simulacrum of the bands they worship and they have enough ideas of their own in terms of song development to separate themselves from their idols.
Ultimately, Etched in Red’s debut, is a slice of classy progressive metal that tempers its aggression with melody in a way that few bands outside of Opeth have ever been able to do consistently. Combined with first-rate musicianship and superb composition and songwriting, this album is a must-listen for anyone who likes their metal to be intelligent and challenging.