Erra have always been perched on the fine line between melody and brutality. Chief songwriter, guitarist, and clean vocalist Jesse Cash loves mathy, complex guitar runs, soaring choruses, and moments of extreme heaviness spliced together. Erra‘s newest album, Drift, still plays with those elements, but really thrusts the melodic aspect of the band forward. They are still very much a metalcore band, but they emphasize the soft moments on Drift over the pummeling side.
Drift also serves as the debut of new unclean vocalist JT Cavey, replacing former screamer Ian Eubanks. Changing a vocalist is always a defining moment for a band, even one that utilizes two voices, and there is a noticeable different between Eubanks and Cavey. While Eubanks had a bit of a deeper, more menacing range, Cavey enunciates his mid-range bark more clearly than almost any of his peers. Combined with the slightly lighter overall sound, it works strongly to Erra‘s advantage – and having seen Erra perform recently, Cavey is a beast live, so no worries on that front.
Opener “Luminesce” kicks things off, and Erra waste no time throwing down a massive hook. It’s telling that they choose to start with Jesse’s clean vocals before introducing JT’s screams. The music is mathy and complex, and the chorus is huge. “Irreversible” has a bit more djent to it, but the chorus hook falls a little flat. “Skyline” and “Hourglass” both mix elements from the previous tracks into new forms. The ingredients are the same, but the songs are easily distinguishable. “Hourglass” works a little better, featuring a vocal combo of punchy cleans and roars used as backing vocals. “Orchid” features some really impressive guitar work, managing to be technical but also very melodic. Cavey’s screams do a great job propelling the riff as well, anchoring the fluttering, schizophrenic instrumentals. Cash’s chorus hook is equally impressive, if simple and very direct.
Title track “Drift” is hands down the masterpiece of the album. The instrumental intro is gorgeous, and then used throughout the song under a vicious, stuttering chug and Cavey’s strongest screams yet. To make things even better, the chorus is also incredibly catchy, veering into Saosin territory with some of Jesse’s highs hitting that borderline shriek Anthony Green is known for. Even the bridge is a success, adding a dreamy interlude and an atmospheric guitar solo to the mix. “Sleeper” wisely chooses to amp the aggression up with a mix of both sweeping guitar and djent chugs, but it’s not as immediately hooky, vocally or musically, as the songs preceding it. “Continuum” follows the same formula as Sleeper, with the same results. The purely instrumental breaks are breathtaking; they only make up a small fraction of the song. “Safehaven” inverts the standard start-heavy-end-soft trope and begins with a clean, drifting chorus hook before the verses kick in. Closing track “The Hypnotist” is perhaps the most similar to previous Erra. It uses the metalcore blueprint, but it plays with shimmering hooks and a dreamy outro without sacrificing any of the low-end chug that makes the song seethe. It’s a musical storm cloud of a song, gathering intensity before bursting and fading out, and it’s a perfect choice to end the album on.
Drift is going to be a polarizing album. There’s still enough metal here to please the fans looking for breakdowns and mosh pits, but if this is an indicator of the band’s future, they’re going to become more melodic over time. There’s enough variety here to make the album a pleasing listen, but not enough to demand frequent listening. And there is certainly some technical skill on display, but mostly on the shoulders of Jesse Cash. The bass and drums are never played poorly on Drift, but they do seem entirely secondary to the noodling runs and giant choruses just as a matter of songwriting. As such, this feels almost like a solo album rather than a band effort. All flaws aside, Drift is great music if you’re looking for something that won’t put you to sleep, but will help you relax, and the title track is one of the best metalcore tunes of the past few years and should help Erra‘s profile continue to rise.