Review Summary: Erra have managed to take their contrasting dual vocals, sprawling layered melodies & complex groove-based chugging rhythms to the next level by achieving exactly what it seems they set out to, if the title of this release is anything to go by
Having had an extremely strong debut release with 2011’s highly acclaimed Impulse - that for all its awe-inspiring melodies & neck-breaking riffs, at times lacked direction & structure with some moments missing what can only be described as intensity & conviction - Erra have truly taken it upon themselves to bring their best to the fore with their follow up; refining & developing their sound to an astounding degree from what was an already solid platform.
Many will be hasty to challenge that statement since this isn’t by any means a genre-imploding album of sheer infallibility. However, the fact is that if you have any kind of proclivity for this style of music whatsoever – then it’s incredibly hard to deny just how ridiculously good this really is.
Erra have managed to take their contrasting dual vocals, sprawling layered melodies & complex groove-based chugging rhythms to the next level by achieving exactly what it seems they set out to, if the title of this release is anything to go by - in augmenting their sound & songwriting with an inspired & profound sense of depth, balance & composure that shows a mature disposition beyond their humble years.
Whilst Impulse seemed like a frenetically constructed mind-meld of inspiringly gorgeous & inexplicably groovy moments - Augment is what I would consider to be a significantly more complete, consistent, & most importantly confident release. Sure, they aren’t entirely reinventing their sound or revolutionising the metal scene as we know it, there’s nothing new in terms of the elements that were already present in their previous work. But if you’re being truly objective about it, that honestly shouldn’t matter. Because what they have so effectively done here is enhanced & implemented those same elements to such a dizzyingly impressive extent - quite literally improving every aspect of their sound – ultimately coalescing in an incredibly cohesive, appealing & accomplished final product that stands head & shoulders above the vast majority of their peers; providing plenty of hope for what can be a painfully derivative & desolate scene at times. They have been fearless not for pioneering an innovative sound, but for sticking to their guns & wearing their hearts on their sleeves by being true to themselves & their identity - revelling in what they know & do better than anyone; consequently honing their craft in the process to what is effectively near perfection.
The much improved vocals will be the first thing you notice following Alpha Seed’s intricate melodic introduction. Garrison delivers his incessant screams & gutturals with a veritable sense of impassioned conviction, certainly in a more imposing fashion than ever before. But it is Jesse who really takes the proverbial bar & snaps it clean in half with his exceptionally executed melodies that bring an almost angelic reprieve amidst the contrasting meticulously-constructed organised chaos. It’s this natural poise & finesse in their synergistic understanding of interplaying dynamics that breathes virility & purpose into their music & distinguishes them so vastly from the rest of the scene. Whilst the combination of harsh & clean vocals is obviously a notorious element of the genre, what is especially striking is that Erra manages to allow for enough variation to ensure their own unique concoction never sounds stale or arbitrary at any point.
Lyrics are, as we've come to expect from the band, incredibly introspective yet relatable - thoughtfully exploring the psyche of a typical individual learning to come to grips with this immeasurably perplexing & complex modern world we all inhabit & struggle to comprehend on a daily basis. Erra have a certain niche when it comes to utilising their expansive vocabulary in crafting ideas to pose existential questions that truly challenge your perspective. They impart plenty of meaning & purpose, with a far more sophisticated directive than the vast majority of their counterparts in the genre - but admittedly the music is what I’m really here for.
Obviously the technicality & melody involved is as awesome as you would inevitably expect from the band. However, it can't possibly be overstated enough just how tight & cohesive all of the instrumentation is here. The sheer aura of control, feel & ingenuity that the guitarists exude in their performances is simply impossible to deny; as is their penchant for writing momentous & memorable passages of music. Every single note caters to illustrating their signature blend of beauty & brutality – & what a wonderfully sublime portrait it is to behold. Distinctively melodic modern metal at it’s finest - saturated in swathes of intricate & breathtakingly-sumptuous intertwining melodies embellishing a relentless array of skull-crushingly-groovetastic riffs, chugs, juns & djents; all executed with impeccable precision & an effervescent verve that succeeds in providing Augment with the inspiring intensity, fluidity & sense of totality that it so effortlessly possesses. The highlights 'Frostbite', 'Hybrid Earth' & 'Spirits Away' embody this notion perfectly.
As a guitarist myself, I have to say that the production of the guitars is irresistibly slick & some of the riffs here are just sickeningly good, but it's the insatiably tasteful melodic sensibilities & nuanced articulations displayed in the masterful lead work that provide the most divine moments - & are what truly make this album & this band as remarkable as they are. Needless to say, there are eargasms to be had aplenty throughout.
The drums, whilst not being anything outlandishly spectacular in a broader sense, do a notably stellar job of driving each song on with significant proficiency; at the same time never overindulging or detracting from their feel. They have been produced & mixed with the guitars in mind, & that can only be a positive thing. However, a most pleasant surprise is that the bass has also been produced particularly well & provides a certain texture, density & punch to their sound that never becomes overbearing or brash; it’s merely conducive to the incredible impact of this technical metalcore juggernaut.
In the end, it’s their collaboration of ideals & personalities as members of a cohesive unit that really gives a sense of how sure they are of their beliefs, abilities & identity as a band; transferring that directly to their music - each individual’s performance proving an instrumental factor in providing this album with some undeniably exquisite moments - & more importantly, a throbbing & intoxicating pulse that permeates throughout the dense & elaborate soundscapes. Relentless from start to finish, it is truly absent of any genuinely weak songs - & the highlights are as abundant as they are entrancing. There is clearly a furthered understanding of what the band wanted to achieve here - all of that desire being entirely evident as their ambition is ultimately more than matched by their prowess.
In the conception of Augment, Erra have truly transcended all expectations & standards with a phenomenally composed album consisting of ferocious screams, soaring cleans, massive riffs, sensational leads, plenty of emotive depth & substance - & a distinct sense of self-awareness & honesty throughout. This is without any shadow of a doubt one of the most consistently brilliant records I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.
It's a simultaneously tantalising & frightening prospect to imagine what Erra are going to be capable of on future releases.