Tetrarch were inevitable. There were simply too many kids who have grown up listening to Disturbed, Korn, Linkin Park, Slipknot, and the myriad of bands who have come, gone, and grown during the early 2000s metal scene and who got inspired by the impact those bands had on not just metal, but pop culture. Those bands, along with the rest of the early 2000s nu-metal and post grunge groups built a sound that at one time was just as popular as NSYNC and Christina Aguilera. But because of this, these bands are often written off and shunned by sections of the heavy music community. The hook and groove mentality that these bands used to bulldoze their way into the ears of millions and make the world pay attention to an often forgotten art form has been dismissed as “not real metal” and many more worse insults.
But Tetrarch have had enough. They know that every fan who claims to only like “the heavy stuff” also, even secretly, loves to just bounce up and down to 'Freak on a Leash' and has certainly gotten 'Down With the Sickness.' Metal and rock fans love to move, and they love to sing along. If not for those gateway bands and songs, would most metalheads even be where they are? The Atlanta quartet’s second album, Unstable, is here to show the scene just what they’ve been missing, while evolving and refining their sound into an album that, though not without flaws, brings a sledgehammer to the iron bars of the metal gatekeepers; crafting hooks that will remind the listener why they fell in love with heavy music in the first place.
There are songs that absolutely writhe with angst and bubbling anger, and that slither in the darkest corners of personal darkness. “You Never Listen” and “I’m Not Right” are massive tracks with hugely singable hooks that soar high with a huge bounce for the mosh pit only to pull the listener into the shadows with lead singer Josh Fore’s dripping gravelly verses. The guitars throughout, courtesy of Fore and lead guitarist Diamond Rowe sound huge, and Rowe’s solos throughout the record add so much flavour and even more catchy flair to these already earworm laden songs. “Addicted” and “Pushed Down” are two more highlights, with the former holding some excellent harmonies and bringing those Disturbed vibes to bear with the stuttering rhythm and moody melodic choices. It’s insanely hooky. The latter is a song that is one of the most throwback songs of the record, with its lyrics and chorus rallying the misfits of the world, just like the classics did 20 years ago. There’s some more excellent guitar work from Rowe here as well.
On many songs, the band certainly makes no bones about wearing their influences on their sleeves. 'Unstable', 'Stitch Me Up' and 'Sick of You' immediately pull to mind the melodies and vocal stylings of Jonathan Davis of Korn and 'Negative Noise' is tapped from the tree of Slipknot, with its fury and freneticism harkening back to that band’s early records. It is dangerous ground to tread, because undoubtedly many out there will call the band out for “playing the hits,” it sounds fresh because very few, if any, bands are using the influence from those bands so directly and as well as Tetrarch do. Some of those songs get lost in the shuffle of the album, but all have a distinct groove and bounce that still makes them bangers to listen to as individual pieces.
'Take A Look Inside' is a song that shows the band is up with the times as well, as the band definitely knows their Gojira. The pick scrapes and on point drumming from Ruben Limas, as well as Fore’s throaty growl in this track sound like a young, fresh take on a sound that many have now incorporated into their music. But the most pleasant surprise is the album closer, 'Trust Me.' This track will deliver chills as it brings to mind the oh so incredible (and influential) soundtrack to Queen of the Damned. The slow march of the muted drums and the drip of the eerie synth sounds in the background, combined with the contorting, softer melody in the lead vocals, is a really great shakeup to the sound of the album while still calling back to a soundtrack that was instrumental for so many metalheads. It’s a unique wink and nod that holds up on its own as a perfectly placed mood piece that delivers the chills.
If metal is truly going to be the most inclusive, bonded-together, home to all that don’t fit in genre it purports itself to be, then barriers need to come down, and Tetrarch know this better than many bands out there. Lead guitarist Rowe is a black woman using her talents to draw more people of colour into the rock and metal world, and the band as a whole is set to pouring gasoline on the false notions of metal that gatekeepers have been peddling for decades. Those bands that so many grew up on? The Avenged Sevenfolds and the Disturbeds and the Papa Roaches? Those bands are just as metal as the heaviest death and black metal bands out there. It’s all metal, and it should welcome, not exclude. The reason those bands and so many more in that era spoke to so many were not just the hooks and the bounce, though that certainly is a huge factor. It’s the personal trauma and difficult lives their singers laid bare for the listeners, letting everyone know they weren’t alone in their feelings. When did metal forget about how important that is? Now, more than ever, with so many marginalized people in this world, lyrics that speak to those dark realities are exactly what Tetrarch deliver with Unstable. It’s the record that the metal scene needs, quite frankly, and though it’s not perfect, it’s an excellent album that gives a shot in the arm with hooks, groove, and lyrics that speak simply and loudly. These are the components that will bring metal out of the darkness and into the light of the mainstream once more, and Tetrarch are leading the charge on this great record.