Self-titled records typically serve as cautionary artifacts in the realm of heavy music. In most cases, they act as a form of introduction—the defining statement for a young group at the beginning of their burgeoning career, loudly declaring themselves to the world: “This is who we are, and this is what we do.”
Alternatively, the eponymous album might also serve as a form of course correction for an established outfit, either reaffirming their chosen genre and sonic wheelhouse or representing an artistic pivot and fork in the musical road.
Curiously, ERRA is neither of those things. While it may be the fifth full-length LP from Birmingham progressive metalcore outfit ERRA, it’s not so much a re-introduction or stylistic detour. For a near-hour-long record, ERRA doesn’t contain any of the fluff or filler one expects from the self-titled label. No superfluous or cringe-worthy covers. No un-released demos. No poppy, radio-rock outliers. It’s twelve tracks of new material. It’s still progressive. It’s still metalcore. And—for all intents and purposes—it’s still ERRA.
As guitarist/vocalist Jesse Cash says of the album in the accompanying press material: “It’s clearly an evolution of the same band, it sounds like a record we wrote, but it’s such a big step forward from the last one that it seemed like the perfect time to self-title a record.”
With this theme of self-reflection in mind, much of ERRA takes the form of a cerebral inward turn. Opener “Snowblood” has already been out in the world for several months, but it serves adequately to set the tone and pace of the record. Cash and guitarist Sean Price lay down spacey leads over off-kilter, rhythmic chug patterns, adding textural contrast to vocalist JT Cavey’s brusque screams. Rounded out by flashy solos and Cash’s soaring, Anthony Green-esque clean register, the track is quintessential ERRA.
Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Grammy-nominated duo Carson Slovak and Grant McFarland (August Burns Red, From Ashes To New), ERRA allows the Alabama quintet to hit a comfortable groove that’s both technically entrancing and lyrically engaging. Filled with many of the album’s slew of pre-release singles, Side-A is stacked with moments that will easily please long-devoted fans.
“Divisionary” delights with Cash’s intricate arpeggios and a hypnotic rhythm section courtesy of the tight drum and bass pairing found in Alex Ballew and Conor Hesse. Thematically, the track gestures towards surface critiques of organized religion, technology, and humanity’s hubris. This thread is then picked up in earnest by the crushing and politically-charged follow-up, “House of Glass,” which sports one of the band’s heaviest, earth-shattering breakdowns.
Much of the heavier cuts like “Gungrave,” “Remnant” and “Electric Twilight” split the difference between the band’s affinity for pile-driving dissonance and monumental melodies. Meanwhile, album highlight “Shadow Autonomous” fuses that duality in place and wields it for a transcendent five-minute rally, built upon a towering lead riff that would perk up even the most neck-bearded Tool fanboy.
And yet, even amongst the familiar, Side-B of ERRA still manages to surprise. The destructive “Scorpion Hymn” is all about maximum intensity, pulsing with down-tuned savagery and Cavey’s demonic vocal performance. Meanwhile, the album’s longest composition, the star-gazing “Lunar Halo” feels like both a homage to earlier eras of the band (no pun intended) and the redemptive path forward for collective missteps (2018’s middling Neon).
Cash puts his angelic pipes into overdrive on the haunting “Vanish Canvas,” with stratospheric choruses and lofty melodies. Cavey drops the hammer numerous times on the crunchy “Eidolon,” taking its name for the spectral phantoms from tales of Greek myth and tragedy.
On the achingly intricate closer “Memory Fiction,” drawing inspiration from a passage of author Cormac McCarthy’s bleak and gut-wrenching dystopic novel, The Road, Cash croons about letting go and acceptance, about “reaching out towards the next phase of ourselves” and learning from the lessons we find “in [the] love that we left behind.”
And if anything, this record sounds like Cash’s earlier sentiment about authenticity and evolution taken to its natural conclusion. ERRA is a mesmerizing distillation of ERRA’s thirteen-year career, one that boldly refracts and refines the group’s sound for the uncertain future ahead.
Purchase and stream ERRA here.