Review Summary: The augmentation of an entire genre.
Metalcore has almost become a punch line in the music industry. This is due to the bands that have poisoned it in recent years well after its pioneers created the genre. It is filled with bands that copy each other, choose cheesy song titles, repetitive breakdowns, and mediocre auto-tuned vocals to fill their albums. *cough cough Rise Records* Thankfully, a few years ago, the unlikely state of Alabama churned out one of the best young bands to come on the scene in a while. The 5 piece of ERRA quickly became known for their mix of catchy choruses, lyricism, and djenty chords mixed with a bit of progressive sound. After a couple of EPs and the band's debut, Impulse, they quickly began to amass a large following.
Two years have passed since said debut was released, and we arrive to the end of 2013 which offers ERRA's sophomore album Augment. The opener titled Alpha Seed offers a nifty little lead riff, met by some fairly impressive drumming, and then some audible bass. Yep, that's right AUDIBLE bass. So many bands nowadays unintentionally drown out the bass in their songs. Though it happens in the album as well at times, overall the bass can still be heard mostly throughout. Sean even opens the track Ultraviolet with his bass, accompanied by Alex's drums, leading to a nice break in intro formula. Another example of this is the opening of Rebirth. Atmospheric synths and piano keys reminiscent of the ending of Seven off their last album open the song. Not to say that using these is a bad thing at all, but it shows how the band can differentiate their sound. It also showcases how well ERRA uses them, as opposed to their lesser brethren within the genre. On the contrary, most songs on the album open up with just straight heaviness.
Though it occurs in a few songs, peacefulness is not the trend of this album. Hybrid Earth was perhaps the best possible lead single the band could have picked, as it is an exemplary showcase of everything ERRA has to offer. Opening in a whirlwind of chaos instrumentally, the song shortly finds its rhythm once lead man Garrison Lee joins in with his low growls. When the first chorus hits, we are pleasantly smacked in the face with the soaring vocals of lead guitarist Jesse Cash, and a riff he plays that matches perfectly with his vocal delivery. He also lays down a couple of intense solos before letting out a scream of his own and leading back to the end chorus. Jesse steals the show not only on this song, (especially toward the end hitting the most RIDICULOUS high note I have ever heard) , but he inserts his cleans perfectly throughout the album with a more natural flow than on previous efforts. When coupled with the vicious vocals of front man Garrison Lee, whose range has improved as well, it results in a perfect contrast.
Of course there will always be critics complaining about the similarity to previous works, the growth of a band should be determined not by changing their sound into something "new", rather the cohesion of the band and how that showcases itself on the album. With the release of their sophomore album, ERRA shows that they have great chemistry, know their strengths, how to build off of them, and above all: TALENT. The quintet from Birmingham are gaining an ever-growing following faster than a wildfire spreads, and will continue to thanks to their revitalizing album that this genre desperately needed.