Some bands already explain much about themselves (their music, their creed, their mindset) by the monicker they choose. Such is the case of The Erkonauts, named after those who travel with their logo character (an alien thingy called Erkonos). This review regards the third full-length by this Swiss combo. a group that includes half of ex-Sybreed's members. It was dropped in the form of a digipack CD and contains 9 tracks for a total length of about 38 minutes.
The four-piece have systematically worked hard to deliver material that can satisfy the ears and the eyes, and this time is no exception. If we pay attention to the whole artwork, we'll notice that it's both organically and digitally drawn
in a supreme manner, always using red, white, gray and a lot of black.
The front cover displays a planet carbonized
by the sun, whose oceans are black and the rest is partially on fire. A black incinerated silhouette symbolizing mankind is flying away up in the sky during a storm of white particles, while a white dove (its soul) has just detached from its ethereal body. When we turn the page we see the dove in the foreground added on a digital background on which black analogue spots have been sprayed on with a special technique. The central and right image complete the picture with a rain of detritus falling onto a wood of the Earth in flames. The liner info about the musicians, the recording and the thanks list were printed on this apocalyptical image that makes Chernobyl a children's playground in comparison. On the following page a nuclear explosion has destroyed a military camp and all the rest around BUT there's a tiny yellow flower blooming, meaning that there is always a possibility for life to return even after the worst cataclysms.
The back cover is in black and white and portrays a black ocean and a feather on which the songs' titles are printed. Maybe it's night, maybe not, what matters is that we can watch half of the moon very closely, and that is the key to understand that the planet in question in the previous parts of the artwork is undoubtely the Earth.
The disk itself repeats a portion of the front cover, while I realize that there's no booklet to accompany the digipack, and that's a pity because I had to look for the lyrics online and print them on normal sheets of paper.
However, the lyrics sometimes regard similar topics, and are all in general connected by the shared theme of humans suffering in different ways. Here are the details in the following list:
* the uselessness, the lies and the exploitation that few powerful people perpetrate on the slaves
* a narcissistic who is constantly complaining as a trend and seeking attention continuously
* paying for our sins or our parents'
* slaves preparing for a war to retake control
the course is changing for the slaves in search of some truth and something new
* the said slaves losing
themselves in order to achieve true emancipation by retaliation
* a prisoner called 'The Sun', in a cage, eager to be set free, yet never released for cash to earn by its 'owner' during freakshows
a weak, helpless, sad and betrayed person
* someone who believes in numerology, good and bad luck, who has been miserable, and notwithstanding still has faith in such things, now feeling a loser.
Recorded and mixed at the Downtone studio by Drop, and mastered at the Fascination Street studios (Opeth, Sepultura, Dimmu Borgir, Amon Amarth, Kreator, Arch Enemy, Dir En Grey, Marty Friedman, Devin Townsend, Millencolin, Babymetal, Moonspell, Dragonforce, etc.), the record is a punch with a hand made of metal knuckles; it only lacks incisiveness and punch during some blastbeats in the opener and in "The Sun". Mind, it's not a huge fault at all and probably it's the only flaw of the entire album along with very few bland uninspired vocals. It's just something that appears clearly at first listens, but it turns less bothering after several replays . The guitar and bass tones, together with the rest of the drums sounds are on the contrary gigantical and quite elevate the quality of the nine numbers.
"I Want it to End" has "War Flamingoes", also released as a teasing single as an onset. It's a frantic Prog/Funk/Punk Metal track baptised by quick slapping bass lines, and features the drummer busy with advanced accents and beats, while the singer is alternating angry vocals with evocative relaxed opposed ones during a cold blastbeat which uses scarce kickdrums' impact because mixed very low, in the vein of Hour Of Anguish. Then arrives a slice with epic vocals, followed by instrumental chunks, which in turn anticipate robotic singing. When the share with the placid vocals returns, it comes the time for a fine chorus until the conclusion. This composition is accompanied by a visualizer depicting a pretty imaginative story (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w756XfnI8Bk).
After a hesitating intro based on a guitar lick, the spotlight is conquered by a groovy riff at the beginning of "The Future Ends with You". Also here is a plain contrast between a slapped bass and unhurried very nasal vocals, that continue in the refrain without big differences. Ensuing a convincing instrumental part, here are some screams that were chosen to appear in order to increase the friction, all culminating in a brilliant guitar solo. I guess this song might as well appeal to Mudvayne's fans and the likes'.
"Five Orange Seeds" is matched by a visualizer, too, this time influenced by Darkest Dungeon and Hellboy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpDFbgfQazc
It's a tad longer, begins low-fi and mixed in a muffled way to then explode in a handful of seconds. It moves on a mid-tempo, tag-teaming with a structure holding a faster pace and almost-spoken vocals that actually remind me of someone praying alone or reciting a mantra. Of course The Erkonauts couldn't do without a Screamo part, followed by a very unwound part with a second guitar (first acoustic, later on slightly distorted). This additional tool works as a pillar both in the instrumental moments and in the accompanying ones. A break devoid of singing leads to a fraction with an impressive use of diverse layers of assorted clean vocals, closed in the end by a little reverberated guitar. I can't explain why but this song keeps on connecting my soul to an isolated snowy place where all the worries of survival, traffic, disease are barred from entering. A magical place where you want to re-enter continuously by pressing the replay button again and again.
The next track, "The Cult of the Burning Star", sees guest vocals from Benjamin D. M. Nominet from Sybreed. By listening to its 5 minutes of length, we realize we finally we have a heavy and melancholic song, enhanced by supplementary tribal parts where a Modern Metal manipulated voice changes back and forth with usual screamed sections. There are dynamic Thrash Metal portions and dreaming vocals, too, as well as an original and piercing hatchet solo. This is undoubtely the first highlight of the record thanks to the perfect weaving between every musician and the vocalist.
"It Could Be over Soon" kicks off with an arpeggio, nearly whispered vocals, laid-back bass lines, which an obsessive drumming is later added on. We're in front of an unconventional, hypnotic and autumnal tune, adorned by a second distorted guitar far away in the background and a snoozing guitar lick. All of that is then replaced by delicate keyboards in the distance, which end up with getting faded out.
The Geneva musicians change the album's mood one more time with "Losing Is the First Step", a piece with a tight tempo of motion, slapped bass notes and intense drumming, some Mudvayne-like segments, a guitar mixed low delivering an uninterrupted sound. After those elements come enraged vocals, effected overdubbed vocals, further strained drumwork. It is decidedly an offering of Alternative Metal, where a lively guitar solo comes after, substituted by more effected vocals and slapping lines until the abrupt ending.
Probably the most aggressive track of the full-length, "The Sun" is the most unmerciful and up-to-date boot kick you'll receive from this pack of 9 tracks. Apparently it doesn't add anything new to the outfit's recipe, while the truth is the exact opposite since there are patterns intentionally recorded in countertime or out ot time (sometimes reminescent of Meshuggah's). All of those modes have never been heard before on this full-length and steadily contribute to stunning the listener. Keep in mind that you'll also meet structures reminding of a divine nemesis, with a Black Metal riff sustained by fast kickdrums and clean Armageddon-like dual vocals. Afterwards, a Rock 'n' Roll fugue, another hammering fugue before the reprise of the initial theme till a loop and a skipping CD effect is what you're bound to get. In brief, the second highlight of the third album of the Elvetic combo's career.
The longest track, lasting over 6 minutes, is "Caravaggio". It commences with an arpeggio and recitative vocals, made precious by remarkable guitar penning and a pulsating bass. A brief crescendo occurs before the opening subject is repeated. It's then about time for an instrumental climax, till the double bass become sharp and the opus veers towards a provision of cosmic Progressive Metal. Rapid insertions of quick drums and orchestration similar to a cello (likely coming from a guitar) strumming are utilized before the refrain resurges and a slow anticlimax leads to the closure. A distinct mention goes to the successfully performed and arranged vocal sections.
A swift assault of Punk and Thrash Metal, "The Curse of Scotland" wastes no time to recur to a crunchy fast drumming and whipping vocals besides the main riff. Particularly noteworthy is a skillful brakeless axe solo which couldn't be more freaking 80s! The strophe and the refrain located at the beginning materialize again until the skinbeater hits the tom toms putting the final seal. In my opinion, the third apex of the platter.
While certainly in the Progressive camp, "I Want It to End" seems more interested in creating a wall of sound from large layers of bass and drums than developing overly technical arrangements.
Recommended for fans of Gojira, Mastodon, System Of A Down, Korn, and most of all Exotic Animal Petting Zoo.