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Era Vulgaris | ‘What Stirs Within’

Preconceptions about bands are probably the stupidest things in music.

The craic is, within your own tastes, nine times out of ten you’re usually wrong. Reading about bands in magazines, looking at their pictures, you make judgments. It’s just life.

But a few years after the fact, it’s often the case that their albums turn out to be alright, really, and you wonder why you didn’t bother sooner.

We’ve all had a similar experience of it.

So after five years of being the band with the most to say and the least to show, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that Era Vulgaris will fall into the first stages of this syndrome for many people. Fuck knows I didn’t really want to listen to it.

One of the best things about music though, and metal in particular, is having your eyes (and in this case your ears) opened. It doesn’t even really need to be that spectacular a revelation. Just a reminder that you really have to play the ball and not the man.

This isn’t really the prog metal they’ve bigged it up to be, thank Christ. Rather, what the opening riffs here herald is much the same across the eight impressive tracks: a mix of old Megadeth, techy death metal from the likes of Believer and Tourniquet and a little bit of Control Denied type noodling every so often.

All well and good. But shot through this cd is marked feel of early 90s mainstream metal, and the air of un self-conscious enjoyment that brings. Which means an acceptable groove, sharp riffing and most importantly of all, a distinct identity.

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s a testament to their hard graft and relative restraint within the format that more often the first of these is the case.

Even when they fall on their arse they are at least interesting. In what one presumes was some kind of Ephel Duath inspired digression, the midsection of ‘I Must Have Your Brain’ goes into a wannabe jazz metal meander of such incredible pretension that you actually have to hand it to them.

That’s not a slagging: in an age of more or less interchangeable bands, the key here is that one actually feels diverted to listen to it. More seriously, some pumping drumming is evident in the crescendo of ‘Limb From Limb’, whose feedback drenched outro reminds of classic Guns N Roses, while the closing instrumental ‘Imram’ is certainly worth its salt.

A further mark of this cd’s success has been the fusing of a wide breadth of influeces into one sound that remains consistently their own, which is no mean feat.

The production is at times questionable, and the overarching need for control as evidenced by the credits could have been eased for the benefit of both the compositions and the sound. But in spite of the faults it’s apparent, as always, that the only way things really get done is with just that self belief, no matter how sometimes misplaced.

Apart from anything, it’s packaged in a way that demands listening, colourfully and tastefully, just like things used to be. So make up your own mind on it, but at least listen to it first. This kind of metal died a death quite some time ago, and though not thin on the ground, its getting harder and harder to come by.

Without exaggerating, and absolutely in spite of my better judgment, it seems on the evidence of this album that Era Vulgaris could well become one of Ireland’s better prospects if only because they’re unafraid to be a plain honest metal band without the subgenres and their required caveats.

Techy metal, no more and no less, but well done and with a clear ambition: taken as a whole, it’s pretty cool.

3.7 / 5 –Earl Grey ::: 19/12/06

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