It has been nearly two years since Alabama's Erra released its debut full length, Impulse. That's two years too long. With that being said, the five-piece progressive metalcore act headed by Garrison Lee on vocals is finally set to release another album – titled Augment – on October 29 through Tragic Hero Records. The guitarists, Jesse Cash (who also supplies the clean vocals) and Alan Rigdon, have always intrigued me with their ability to create some crushing, groovy riffs and technical – yet still very melodic – leads and piece them together perfectly. Erra is rounded out by Alex Ballew on drums and Sean Price on bass. Price is a new addition to the band and joined after the recording of Augment, but Ballew has been around since the band formed in 2009.
The album opens with "Alpha Seed," a track that would make any fan of metalcore instantly know that they're listening to Erra without even having to confirm with iTunes or check what CD is currently spinning. The rhythm guitar maintains a groovy chugging pattern for the majority of the song, while the lead guitar parts are a conglomeration of beautiful and technical melodies – which is exactly what one has come to expect from this band. At times, "Alpha Seed" also displays the really old style that Erra showed on their self-titled EP with a few fast-paced verses that immediately reminded me of "Towers."
Up next is the previously released "Pulse" then followed by "Dreamwalkers," "Frostbite," "Hybrid Earth" and "Rebirth." I could talk about each of these songs in depth; however, the second half of the album is when things start to get really interesting, so I'll just leave you with these quick thoughts on the aforementioned tracks: Lee's monstrous vocals and the sparsely used backing screams pack a serious punch on "Pulse" and "Hybrid Earth," the clean vocals on the aforementioned tracks (yes, all five) are an excellent contrast to the harsh vocals, and the solos and riffs on "Dreamwalkers" and "Frostbite" are sure to make your brain explode.
Tracks seven to nine – respectively titled "Ultraviolet," "Spirits Away" and "Prometheus" – are a few of my personal favourites on Augment. "Ultraviolet" is a chug-happy tune that mixes in a lot of melody and ambience as well as an excellent solo. Additionally, it showcases the vocal (and lyrical) abilities of Lee and Cash. Similar to "Ultraviolet," "Spirits Away" contains a lot of chugging, but there's even more melody and ambience in this track and the clean vocals are particularly impressive. The song comes to a close with a groovy and ambient finish, flowing into "Prometheus" – a track that really reminded me of the material heard on Impulse, but better.
Track ten, "Crimson," contains some of the most innovative guitar parts that Erra has ever written, and it also features an incredibly catchy clean-vocal chorus and outro. The next track is the title track in the form of an instrumental interlude. It may seem odd that the second last track is an interlude, but it works perfectly and sets the tone for the nearly eight-minute-long "Dementia." The first noteworthy thing about the album closer is the clean vocals; they sound different than the majority of the album because Cash almost speaks some of his parts. Another key aspect of "Dementia" – as well as a large portion of Augment – is the admirable guitar work (solos galore on this track) and the frequent use of synth. Simply put, I love everything about how "Dementia" sounds and how it closes out the album, and I think it has overtook "Seven" as my favourite song by Erra.
I thought Erra had reached its peak with Impulse (like it seems Born of Osiris has done with The Discovery), but I was clearly proved wrong. Augment is just over 52 minutes long, yet there is never a dull moment. The members of Erra have somehow managed to create an album that displays tremendous musical progression – all the while sticking to their roots and sounding like the same band that released Andromeda in 2010 then Impulse a year later. Erra has been gaining fans at a rapid pace as of late and Augment is just further proof of the validity behind the band's recent success. This is the metalcore album of 2013.