Or should I say, the end of an ERRA. Do you get it? It’s funny because-…never mind.
Moments of Clarity
November 10th, 2014
2014 has proven to be an exciting year for progressive-metalcore outfit ERRA. Still on the high of a very well received sophomore album, (Augment, 2013 via Tragic Hero Records) ERRA have been brought out on tour with the likes of Glass Cloud, Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris, among other large names in the scene. Even better yet, the band got a record deal with Sumerian Records and released their new 5-song EP Moments of Clarity earlier this month. With Sumerian Records being one of the leading labels for emerging metal acts, this is a pretty big deal for the group and should introduce them to a massive amount of new music listeners. With all that said, the year hasn’t been without its hardships. Earlier in the year, guitarist Alan Rigdon and harsh vocalist Garrison Lee separated fromthe band. To replace them, they welcomed aboard Ian Eubanks (formerly of the band Bermuda) and moved their bassist, Sean Price, to guitar. For those keeping track, this leaves guitarist/clean vocalist Jesse Cash and Alex Ballew as the only founding members of the group. If I’m being honest, I was, and still am, pretty devastated to hear of the leaving of two of their principal songwriters. Rigdon’s style was incredibly unique and was arguably what differentiated the band instrumentally from the rest of the crowd. Vocally, I felt there was no one better than Lee when it came to harsh vocals. His clarity and articulation were unmatched and his lyrics were some of the most interesting and well written that I had ever heard. One might say that with Lee and Rigdon gone, this left fans worried about how the band’s sound would change as a result. But I guess I should shut up with the back story and get to Moments of Clarity.
On the outside, the cover art looks like a continuation of the art from Augment; it even has the same color scheme. However, this shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing because I think they were trying to draw parallels to their previous works. It even looks like the subject from the Impulse (2011, via Tragic Hero Records) album cover makes a return. This could be to show that throughout the changes, they are still the same band, but I’m just speculating. Much like the cover, the music feels like a continuation of Augment. The band doesn’t do anything surprising or ground breaking on this release, but I don’t necessarily think that they needed to deviate from their original formula this time around. They put out a consistent release well-within their comfort zone, but that’s okay. They could have done this for a multitude of reasons but I feel it was mostly because they were working on a tight deadline, to have something ready to release once they were announced as a part of the Sumerian roster. I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The opening track “Dreamcatcher” encapsulates the ERRA sound quite well. It includes many of the aspects that fans have come to expect. My only beef with the song is that the ensnaring melody that begins the song is overused. It practically never stops. When it isn’t being played by piano or the harp-like synth, it is being played by the guitars, interpreted in different ways. The song never really gains momentum because of this and falls flat, in my book. Although, as I write this I have the chorus vocal melody stuck in my head, so I guess they got something right. The rest of the songs on the EP all share a common bond in that the songs feel indistinguishable from one another until the choruses hit, and even then, the choruses all sound the relatively the same. The only parts that really stand out to me are the solo in “Our Translucent Forever” and the outro section in the title track, “Moments of Clarity”. The solo is actually quite excellent at times but doesn’t seem well thought out. It fails to remain consistent, as some sections feel like a lost opportunity. The ending to the title track is very reminiscent of something the old ERRA would come up with. I really enjoy the group vocalizing during this part; it catches your attention and is something the rest of the EP mostly fails to do.
I can’t complete this review without discussing the elephant in the room, Ian Eubanks. Just to clarify, I am in no way insinuating that Eubanks is the size of an elephant or is any multitude of insulting things that can be interpreted from the phrase. I feel the need to clarify for fear of my life (have you seen him? He could so beat me up). Ex-harsh vocalist Lee left some big shoes to fill and I think that all things considered, Eubanks does a good job. I am unsure who wrote the lyrics, but assuming that Eubanks had anything to do with them, he did a good job with them. “Our Translucent Forever” has definitely got to be Cash’s work, though. It has Ghost Atlas written all over it (if you are not familiar with his side-project, you should be). The only thing that Eubanks is lacking in is his range and timing. His vocal performance, while sounding good, is rather boring throughout the entire EP. I’ll cut him some slack this time though, considering this is his first release with the band. I’ll expect something better next time around, Baldy. (COME AT ME, EUBANKS).
Overall, I actually think the EP is pretty good. Although not up to the high standards set by ERRA’s previous works, it is a lot “better” than most of the music out on the market today. Regardless of my seeming dissatisfaction with Moments of Clarity, there is a lot of good to be found in these five tracks.
It is definitely commendable for a band that has gone through so much change to be able to put out something of this quality in such a short period of time.
Fans can rest easy knowing that Cash’s clean singing is still as good as ever.
The mix and sound quality are excellent.
Sadly, none of this is enough to make the tracks sound like anything more than Augment B-Sides. It will probably end up being a collection of songs that I never actively seek out to listen, but still like enough not to skip them when they show up on shuffle. To answer my posted question, I do believe that this is the end of an era, but don’t interpret my words in a bad light. Change is natural. A band’s sound can change and grow as time passes, especially when members come and go. A chapter in the book of ERRA has come to an end, but a bright new chapter has surely begun. I am excited to see this band grow, both in maturity and in popularity, because they certainly deserve it. I have not lost faith in ERRA and if you are a fan, nor should you. In losing Rigdon and Lee, the band lost its unique sense of melody and phrasing, but they still have a bunch of talented individuals in their ranks. I feel that this band still has the song writing capabilities to put out interesting and inspired material, when given the appropriate amount of time to do so.