Back in 2013 when Erra released Augment, they showcased that they may well have been the most genuinely inspired metalcore band at the time. The sophomore effort showed a band at the top of their game in regards to songwriting, performance and emotion, three things that were definitely lacking in a lot of other metalcore bands at the time. Augment was an exciting release that showed a promising future for a young band. However, shortly after this album was released, the next few years were very shaky for the band, beginning with the departure of two founding members, vocalist Garrison Lee and guitarist Alan Rigdon. Following this, the band released an EP, Moments of Clarity, which was a solid, if somewhat safe EP. Unfortunately this wasn’t the end of lineup changes for the band, with new vocalist Ian Eubanks departing shortly afterwards. Following this, the band recruited former Texas In July vocalist JT Cavey.
Erra’s lineup stabilised a lot more after this move and they have since released two full-lengths, Drift and Neon. Unfortunately, since this period of instability, Erra have never really been able to recapture the magic that was presented on Augment. Even if such successors are by no means bad or even average albums, they felt like the band playing on autopilot, with somewhat toned-down songwriting, a much more limited harsh vocal performance, both in range and frequency, and an over-reliance on the clean vocals provided by guitarist Jesse Cash.
However, in 2019, Erra dropped a standalone single 'Eye of God;, which was a welcome surprise, with Cavey’s harsh vocals being much more prominent and he displayed a somewhat wider range. Additionally, the performance was far more engaging, and the song was by far the closest the band had come to rediscovering the inspiration they had on Augment. It was a promising sign that the next full-length album could be a step in the right direction for the band.
Fast forward to 2021 and Erra finally have that full-length album ready to release, and the short answer is that they have absolutely returned to form. The opening track 'Snowblood' immediately gets down to business with the trademark winning formula that has made Erra’s past material so enjoyable. The guitar work flows effortlessly between melodic leads and machine gun fast breakdowns, and the bass and drum lines are flawlessly in time with one another, providing a solid foundation for the rest of the band’s sound. There are even a few new tricks thrown in, like some sparse synth and electronic sections, such as the beginning of 'Snowblood' and 'Scorpion Hymn', and some cool vocoder vocals in the 8th track 'Lunar Halo'. Overall it’s hard to find fault with the instrumentation of the album, with all the right elements being present as well as a few new tricks thrown in to keep things interesting.
Perhaps the biggest criticisms of Drift and Neon were the vocals and songwriting. Frontman J.T. Cavey, whilst being a very competent screamer, didn’t seem to be able to recapture the intensity of previous vocalists Garrison Lee and Ian Eubanks. However, his vocals on this self-titled have absolutely stepped up, with a more varied performance. Whilst he still relies primarily on his mid-range screams, he also throws in some higher-pitched screams, which can be heard in songs like 'Snowblood', and he also shows off his low range on 'Scorpion Hymn'. This song in particular is the first time since he joined that Erra have released a song with just his vocals, and he holds nothing back, showing off every vocal style previously mentioned as well as some great pitched-screams during the chorus. As for guitarist and clean vocalist Jesse Cash, regardless of individual opinions on his singing style, there’s no denying that he can sing very well, and his performance on this album is as good as ever. However, it’s definitely refreshing that, on this album, it doesn’t feel like he’s hoarding the vocal limelight and overall the performance between the two singers is way more balanced than on Drift and Neon.
The songwriting on here has also greatly improved on this self-titled album. The spark that Erra had seemingly lost hasn’t shined this brightly since Augment, and whilst the band aren’t exactly going into left-field territory for their genre, there’s no denying that the band sounds focused and way more dynamic on this album. After the band’s previous two albums, it’s great to see this incantation of Erra has stepped their game up so much on this self-titled release, and anyone who had written Erra off after Drift and Neon definitely shouldn’t sleep on this album.
Erra is released March 19th via UNFD.