boringvsfunny

Which side of me will win?

earthtone9 new album – IV

earthtone9_IV

March Of The Yeti opens this, earthtone9’s first album for almost 13 years, with a simple machine gun blast of drums then… a riff. Not just a riff, but a… RIFF! It will be the first of many to come over the next 52 minutes and all of them, yes ALL OF THEM, will be in upper case.

It’s a perfect opener, boldy signaling the band’s intent not only to rock your fucking ball hair off with a barrage of low-slung, arse-shatteringly heavy compositions but also, like never before in earthone9’s history, to work their way into your subconscious with some of the catchiest hooks since Abu Hamza got thrown off the Manhattan Metropolitan Correction Centre volleyball team.

abu_hamza
“Hey! I’ve got my eye on you.”

At some point during their decade-long absence, earthtone9 learned to write choruses. I mean, they had them before, but… but not like these. March Of The Yeti’s refrain, “This place was ours for so long! Lived out of sight for so long!” has everything. It’s ballsy, emotive, anthemic, uplifting, soaring, heavy and so, so, so fucking catchy. Yes, I said it again, catchy.

The whole album’s like this though. I swear that since I first heard it 12 days ago, I have woken up with a song from IV stuck in my head every morning. Or, as the case often may have been, afternoon. And a different song each time too.

But don’t go thinking that just because I’ve referred to catchiness three times already that earthtone9 have become a pop group all of a sudden. March Of The Yeti closes with some astonishingly heavy, yet harmonious, riffing that’s presumably intended to evoke the sensation of being firmly marched upon by a Yeti or ten. And that it does.

Preacher continues the remarkably upbeat vibe with all its talk of hope, unity, living in the moment and even the raising up of ones hands. The message is clear – this band is glad to be back and, what’s more, fucking delighted not to have to deal with record labels any more (isn’t crowdfunding just wonderful?). There’s a common belief that musicians, particularly those at the heavier end of the spectrum, lose all their talent when they get happy and comfortable. IV says otherwise.

Anyway, you can watch the video for Preacher here. Remember to throw your hands in the air, like you just don’t care…

I’m not done yet though. Nowhere near. Sea Of Blades is up next and it is surely the stand-out track on the album, which makes it one of the stand-out tracks in earthtone9’s already very impressive catalogue.

In the immediate aftermath of Preacher’s closing aural beatdown, Sea Of Blades sounds almost tame at first, with only a snippet of groove-laden riffery hinting at what’s to come. But then… then, the pre-chorus lays some truly staggering vocal athleticism over yet more gut-punchingly irresistable riffing and I, for one, find myself struggling to comprehend just how something can possibly sound quite this good.

The breakdown in Sea Of Blades is classic earthtone9 too. First, it establishes its authority with a two-footed challenge on your gonads, then it builds and builds and builds, taking unexpected twists and turns all the way up until, just as you’re hitting the vinegar strokes, the chorus seamlessly drops back in like nothing ever happened. Utter fucking genius from start to finish.

Many years ago, when I asked earthtone9 guitarist Owen Packard how he would describe his own band’s sound he said something like, “We get compared to Tool quite a lot, and I can see why, although obviously we’re heavier.”

This is a notion that could certainly be applied to Andersion, the hypnotic, cyclical bass line of which could certainly have been taken from a Tool song. It’s an altogether quieter, more ambient number, but keeps to the ‘awesome chorus’ rule splendidly, before the pace picks up again for the album’s shortest, most to-the-point selection, God Cloud. The rumbling, growling heaviosity of the verse gives way to yes, you’ve guessed it, another fantastic, singalong chorus.

Our Last Sunrise is more ballad-like and starts a trend for the second half of IV that somewhat undermines my earlier claim that earthtone9 have gone all happy. No, not all. From here on in, the mood gets a little melancholy, with the sense of hope that kicked proceedings off dissipating somewhat. Soaring choruses and stomptastic riffs still abound though and while Our Last Sunrise and the similarly toned Can You Hear The Engine Turning? might have you staring wistfully into space at times, there’ll still be opportunities to tap your feet, bang your head and, should you be so inclined, whip out the ol’ air guitar for a hearty strum or two.

russell_stedman
Russell Stedman – bass, distribution

Sandwiched between that pairing though is Harsh Light which, with its strict riff-after-riff-after-riff policy, calls to mind old school earthtone9 more than anything else on IV. This might please the more progress-phobic listener but for me, despite being undoubtedly solid, it’s probably the least memorable offering on the record.

One of the most memorable though is Horizon’s End. It’s absolutely fucking epic. The harmonies between bass, guitars and vocals conspire to create something that just sounds huge. I don’t really know what else to say about this one. It’s making the hairs on my neck stand up on end as I write this. In fact, writing this is rather distracting me, so gimme a couple of minutes…

Finally then IV, like its predecessor arc’tan’gent, ends on a long, slow burner of a track. Occam’s Razor is no match for Binary 101 – still the band’s finest moment for me – but it’s a satisfying, substantial way to end an album that has already given so very much.

For the sake of transparency I should point out that I pledged £35 towards the funding of IV and that the band has stated that it is as much the pledgers’ album as it is theirs. You could then argue that I’m, in effect, reviewing my own album and that this makes my opinion invalid.

But fuck that, I’d say that as someone who put a significantly-more-than-the-minimum sum towards it, I’m actually more entitled to judge IV than most. And I’m absolutely delighted to report that the ‘gamble’ has paid of handsomely. This release is easily on a par with anything earthtone9 has done before and, for me, reinforces the idea that crowdfunding is less of gamble than the traditional music publishing model. When only the artist and their fans are involved, there seems to be very little that can go wrong.

So, if you didn’t already pledge, I heartily recommend buying this album and, what’s more, I suggest you log onto PledgeMusic.com and find a worthy band to support. It’s a great feeling, I promise you.

www.earthtone9.co.uk

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