Wednesday, May 25, 2011
[thrashhits.com] earthtone9 exist within a weird little bubble in the UK metal scene. Raising their name with younger fans of heavy music invariably produces shrugs of shoulders and “whuuh? who’re they?” response, and outside Britain you’ll get more reaction bringing up Sikth than you will this namedropping earthtone9. However, if you happen to fall into the narrowish demographic of British metalheads who came of musical age around the turn of the millenium (alongside approximately 90% of the Thrash Hits’ contributors), then earthtone9′s albums will have a special place in your record collection.
Around the time nu-metal was falteringly establishing itself as the dominant metal force among unruly teenagers, earthtone9 were one of the few up and coming British bands of the era that outright rejected the notion of emulating the cash cow bands coming out of America, and instead pushed an agenda equal parts Tool, Neurosis and heck, even Helmet at times. It says much for the quality of e9′s trio of full-length albums (and assorted EPs) that by the time they split up in 2002, they had (somewhat) succeeded in selling the idea of progressive metal to a generation generally more obsessed with how baggy they could get away with their pants being, and how thick and ridiculous their wallet-chains could hang. So it was when we discovered just over a year ago that the band was planning to reform for a handful of shows, we almost immediately started crossing every finger and toe we could that this would eventually blossom into something a little more permanent than five old mates mucking about for some easy festival performance fees.
For Cause and Consequence is the end result of all those hopes, as well a significant groundswell of support (both moral and financial) via Pledgemusic. The EP very much builds the musical tropes that earthtone9 collectively fortified around themselves nearly a decade ago, with opener ‘Tide of Ambition’ comfortably sitting alongside ‘evil crawling i’ and ‘Star Damage (For Beginners)’ as a hyper-dense demonstration of e9′s musicianship. Vocalist Karl Middleton works through his familiar patterns, making full use of his strained-shriek vocals on the chorus, before lending his equally impressive clean-singing voice to the choruses for some thick doses of personality.
‘Ghosts’ capitalizes on a different aspect of e9′s signature style, this time with Middleton acting as the principal architect effecting the tonal changes between verse and chorus. Starting as a slower, guitar-driven crunch with Middleton’s vocal pacing matching the tone and timbre of the guitars, upon the onset of the chorus the song switches gear and it is the now-accelerated melody of Middleton’s lyrical proclamation that “No-one can question their Ghosts” that takes charge of the track’s direction.
The millstone e9 had to unfairly bear for much of their career, that of the-British-Tool-that-never-quite-made-it, returns in the form of ‘The Trail That We Carved Out’. The track ditches rough-vocals almost entirely, and instead uses the impressive stick-skills of Simon Hutchby and Dave Anderson’s deep and moody bass throb to slowly build atmosphere behind Middleton’s ethereal vocals. earthtone9 restore the pace with the EP’s closing track, ‘Reborn’, which sees e9 truly branch out from their comfort zone with guitars that practically sneer during the verses, but widen into dirtier six-string workouts, choppy interludes, or bigger, beefier versions of their initial arrangements as required.
It is damn lazy to sign off reviews of reformed bands with over-used phrases such as “it’s like they’ve never been away!!!!”, because if you break it down then that’s damning praise if ever there was some. To say a band sounds “like they’ve never been away!!!!” is to accuse them of permanent stagnation. The feeling For Cause and Consquence leaves the listener with as it closes is that while earthtone9 are mindful of what made them work in the past, they are by no means tethered or restricted by that knowledge.
Posted by Dan Goldin at 5:07 PM