Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Earthrise - Eras Lost (2012)

The scales of metal are starting to shift, with some of the most talented bands falling on the side of sludge. With this subgenre becoming one of the most popular, particularly in the United States, you can now find your fair share of great acts spread across this great nation of ours. From Iowa's Blizzard At Sea, to St. Louis' Fister and The Lion's Daughter, the bass heavy, distorted art form can't be stopped, even in the frozen north. Minnesota's Earthrise are no different, playing a brand of post metal that may leave you seeking out a lawyer for a personal injury suit. On their new album, "Eras Lost," this drunken four piece may give you a nasty case of whiplash.

After a brief spoken word, and crashing, distorted chord opens "Challenger Deep," resonating for seconds afterword. A rumbling bass line comes through, joined by the sizzle of cymbals. As heavy as the music is, there is always an underlying sense of melody to be had, even beneath the grating vocals. Every drum hit is deliberate, every down tuned chugging chord is not without purpose. Despite the ferocity of the lyrical delivery, there is substance to the screams, almost taking on the characteristics of free form poetry. Though, to be fair, it would be easy to lose sight of that amongst the bruising kick drums. It would be safe to call  "Titan" one of the heaviest tracks on the album, with a drum piece that is devastating. Once again, the grating vocals tear down any chance you had of surviving unscathed. And while the song may be one of the more simplistic pieces on the album, it is by no means a sleeper. A short, but equally enjoyable solo pops up, giving you one last push before the crashing end.

You get lost in the smooth instrumental of "Suspension," with a minimal vocal addition, in a way that has become synonymous with the post metal genre. The music isn't overly complicated, but intensely rich. It elicits a slow head nod with each blast beat, a visual approval. Almost a continuation, "Former Worlds" begins with that slow melody and an atmospheric blast of distortion. The vocal passages remain sparing in comparison to the multiple layers and waves of instrumentals, but this time they have a dimming effect on things. The screamed lyrics don't evolve, leaving them stagnant in an ever changing musical landscape. But the rhythm section comes to the rescue, through sliding bass lines and surgically precise drum fills. Alternatively, "Polar Low" is a more complete affair, with the vocals doing their part to elevate the track, rather than bring it down. They find a stride here, allowing the band to lead, while the words follow suite. The true disappointment is how the vocal style itself will distract from what is a fairly impressive lyric sheet, full of poetry and wordplay. That aside, the distorted riffs at play are at war with the crashing cymbals, in a battle where everyone wins.

Standing out from the rest of the album, "Relentless" gives you a more melodic approach to the formula, with guitars, bass, and drums finding a comfort zone somewhere between solid and explosive. The drumming, in particular, is at a high point, with amazing detail put into every passing measure. More than anything, this feels like an extended interlude, a transition from one half to the next. And with that, "Mirovia" breaks through. There is a density at work that, while present in the earlier tracks, is taken to a new height here. Every down beat is a joining of a massive chord, and a thunderous array of drums. if you can prevent your brain from turning to complete mush under the weight of all of the pummeling of the outro, you will be handsomely rewarded with "Eighteen Hundred." Throwing melody to the side, this is a heavy exhibition of tempo changes and pure, unadulterated destruction. Don't hold your breath waiting for a dazzling solo or clean vocal lead. Much like the leaders of the sludge movement, this is the sonic beatdown you deserve.

After the assault and battery you have endured, "Transmission" gives you a few moments to breathe, with whining guitars echoing throughout the four minute piece. This is drum lead, with electronic elements coming in and out, mingled with radio transmissions. The final descent begins with "Exhale," a track which thankfully exhausts all of its lyrical and vocal load in the first half. The second half is a flowing instrumental, simplistic but powerful in its delivery. Once again, the drums take center stage, with each cymbal and tom finding the perfect place in the mix. Sure, the guitars set the tone, set the mood. But the way they bounce and kick off one another is the true strength of the band. To close it all out, "Frame Digging" becomes the song of submission to the new regime, accepting that the life you once new is over. Through the most intense screams, the band take you through one more walk of flames and fire, beating you down with kick snare combos and raging riffs.

Earthrise have a solid handle on making music that is both punishing, but also rewarding. They manage to offset their rage fairly well, without lessening the impact. But with a vocal attack that seems to be one dimensional, it is hard to differentiate one song from the next, despite lyrics that are far more inspired than one might think from the way they are presented on tape. That said, these eleven tracks are well rounded, balanced with melody and mayhem, and have every opportunity to grow. The question is whether "Eras Lost" will be the start of something big, or the just another piece of sludge lore.


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