The self-titled album is the magnum opus of an artist’s discography. It acts as the pinnacle of songwriting, emotion, and overall vision of what the artist was and is supposed to be. When an artist self-titles their album, a lot of scrutiny starts to manifest within the reviews of that record, as writers like myself are keen to wonder what about this specific entry warrants the titling. Where bands like Slipknot and Weezer cemented their popularity with their self-titled, others such as Being as an Ocean and Sonic Youth were forced to go back to the drawing boards after subpar efforts on their namesakes’ collection. Enter ERRA. After a pair of albums released with the vocal performances of former Texas in July unclean vocalist J.T. Cavey, the band was determined to create a record to last the test of time in their discography. The previously released Neon fared pretty well in the eyes of the public, but not as much as the preceding album Drift, Cavey’s debut. With the pandemic giving ample time to create and hone in the elements that make the Birmingham quartet one of the premier progressive metalcore acts in the scene today, the fifth studio effort from ERRA has presented itself as a no-brainer album of the year contender, as well as one of the best progressive metalcore records to come out in the past decade.
ERRA opens with “Snowblood”, the first single released prior to the album, and contains all of the elements that you could ask for in a metalcore song – a synth introduction (as is the trendy case with most progressive metalcore as of recent), a soaring chorus and guitar solo from clean vocalist Jesse Cash, pounding verses from Cavey, and a punishing breakdown. The track leads into “Gungrave”, which remains on a fast-paced, frenetic note throughout its entirety, with some atmospheric drop-offs sprinkled in to give the listener room to breathe. The melody Cash provides on the chorus is a definite earworm. The drumming from longtime member Alex Ballew really get a chance to shine here as well, as shifts from pseudo blast-beats to ghost notes during the aforementioned atmospheric sections really show a subtlety that most drummers don’t particularly show. “Divisionary” follows up the previously unreleased track, and remains my favorite of the pre-released songs on the record. A predominantly sang song by Cash, the lyrics detail humanity and their reliance on technology, as the words belted out explain “small black screens are our only god now”. Cavey’s versatility works perfect as a secondary vocalist to this song, and despite having his parts to shine on this song, the most impressive part was the pitch screams to match Cash on the high notes of the chorus.
“House of Glass” was another single that was released before the album, and this one did not stick out much to me as far as being a definitive track in ERRA’s discography. As Cash explained in a prior interview, the purpose of ERRA was to have a variety of songs that had their own identity, and while that is true for a majority of the record, “House of Glass” felt like it could have been released on their previous album Neon. That isn’t to say the song is bad, but I feel that the songs around it hold its quality up. “Shadow Autonomous” was just released last week, but feels like a piece where ERRA incorporated all the quality elements of a progressive metalcore song, down to the acoustic outro. Contrary to “House of Glass”, this track fits very well in the defining songs for ERRA. “Electric Twilight” starts off with a softer intro, but erupts into a monster chorus that I can compare to “Drift” off of the album Drift. The juxtaposition between verses and chorus is really jolting, and Cavey’s vocal performance works perfect in tandem with the chugging guitar work from Cash and Sean Price.
“Scorpion Hymn”, in addition to having the coolest name out of all the tracks (I mean, come on. You can’t spin it any other way that SCORPION HYMN is a dope name for a song.), really taps into the Meshuggah influence the band has stated to have, as the off-kilter time signature and vocal patterns add an interesting twist to the common tropes of progressive metalcore in the early 2010s. “Lunar Halo”, the longest song on the record, starts with an atmospheric intro that highlights the band’s ability to convey emotion without having any words being sung. Cavey’s mid-level screaming works perfectly with the tone of the song, before Cash comes in with another soaring chorus that he is so good at creating. “Vanish Canvas” was a primarily melodic song that features heavy clean vocals with some backing from Cavey. The softest song on the record by far, the songwriting ability is super apparent here, as the switch from the verses to the breakaway unclean vocal features are so sudden, before seamlessly transitioning into the chorus.
“Eidolon” starts with some heavy bass chugging from Connor Hesse over ambient synths, and highlights Cavey’s range (which was not as apparent on Drift and Neon) as an unclean vocalist. The pitch screams make a return and are used as the chorus and really give the song a different feel than if Cash was singing the chorus. It was a neat little twist on the back half of the record. Some more ambient picking closes the song out and really gives the track some life. “Remnant” brings Cash’s signature vocals back for the chorus, but Cavey continues to shine with some sickening low screams over guitars that sound like they’re being played against steel beams. “Memory Fiction”, the album closer, takes lyrical influence from Cormac McCarthy, one of Cash’s favorite authors, and somewhat falls into the “album closer” trope with the piano introduction, but redeems itself as a monumental end to the record with soaring melodies and heartfelt lyricism.
Overall, ERRA is so much more polished and refined than Neon was, and with the band starting a new chapter in their careers, a record with renewed focus and certainty of self is most definitely deserving of the self-title.
I give ERRA a 9/10.
Songs to Check Out: “Snowblood”, “Electric Twilight”, “Lunar Halo”