Hailing from Krasnodar, Russia are Guitarist Dmitry Demyanenko, Vocalist Andrew Ivashchenko, Drummer Mike Isaev and Bassist Rodion Shevchenko. A collective better known as Shokran. It may have only been 8 months since the release of Dmitry Demyanenko’s second solo album “Universe” but it has been the better part of 2 years since “Exodus”, the Progressive Metalcore Masters second album. So that’s a solo album between every album then? Pretty much.
An epic spoken word introduction accompanied by icy synths and orchestration brings the first 30 seconds of “Unbodied” to life. Bright Progressive lead guitar flourishes over soundscape of complex rhythms while maintaining the big synth sound. The lyrical storytelling from Ivashchenko is as impressive as it is thought provoking and the mixture of spoken word, clean and unclean vocals is blended nicely over songs short and sweet duration. “Nature of Paradox” has a programmed music box loop that is at times buried in the mix through the opening passages. The electronics underpin a groove laden track that has driven funky DJent riffage and has the same soul feel that the new Monuments album “Phronesis” has. Again, the vocal range is highly impressive with the cleans expressing a depth of feeling in the lyrical content that lesser vocalists just can’t obtain. “Shadows” opens up with a big DJent bounce and buried electronics that seep out of the mix over multiple listens. Some really impressive lead guitar work from Demyanenko accompany some harsher uncleans in places as the track reaches its closing at a pace. “Ascension” attacks in sonic waves. Starting off with a more melodic, palette cleansing introduction that builds into driven Progressive DJent with some glorious layered clean vocals. It then builds up to a heavier bridge with some guttural uncleans before slowing down and breaking out the acoustic guitars and even a piano for verse. That then builds into a piece of epic and atmospheric guitar soloing accompanied by a funky bassline to close. It’s a thing of beauty.
“Conquerors” comes in with heavier intro riff and some powerful unclean vocals in a play on pitch to create layering. There are even blast beats before the chorus comes in and brings some more progressive guitar work. Ivashchenko uses a big clean vocal harmony during the chorus but contrasts it nicely with the uncleans of the verse so the song ends up with a far bigger sound. Helter Skelter Piano brings in the opening guitar work of “Superior” which kicks in at breakneck pace, mimicking the piano work before slowing up for some clean vocals while maintaining some chugging riffs. The verse vocals are frenetic and biting while the clean vocal breaks allow the track to breathe for a moment before piling back in with some equally frenetic but controlled Tech-Metal riffage. There is a spoken word that sounds like a sample but may not be that brings home a final flourish of headbanging breakdown riffage. It’s the heaviest track on the album to this point but also maintaining that epic feel. There is a sweeping Piano intro to “Golden Pendant” before some electronics some into play that underpin the whole song. A slow and thoughtful beauty is broken by tempo shifts into chunkier DJent riffs overlaid by Progressive lead guitar work and some bright and epic vocals. Genre pioneers Periphery would be proud to create something like this themselves.
Title track “Ethereal” neatly underpins the big clean vocals with a layer of uncleans to create the effect of a second vocalist in places with stunningly good results. Driven DJent riffage broken up by pieces of synth and orchestration that become underpinned themselves by building Progressive riffage in a bold and intelligent way. “Faces Behind the Stars” combines all the elements of the earlier material to create pile driver of a song that rip-roars through whirlwinds of guitar complexities and fundamentally sums up the musical side of the album in one. The soundscape drives like the chase scene from a tense thriller, slowing for clean vocal harmonies before accelerating again, giving everything a sense of the dramatic. Album closer “Destiny Crucified” was actually the first single to appear for the albums release back on 17th December. It builds on layers of what may well be ukulele work into some chugging riffage that allows space for the big clean vocals to tell the story in powerful glory. It manages to play off the light and shade with some bold and bright lead guitars against the backdrop of some heavier tones before that music box programming comes back to round it all off.
As an album “Ethereal” has a sense of theatre. It captures the beating heart of Progressive DJent and makes it bigger, brighter and bolder. Shokran have struck a perfect balance in their blend with the abundant bright clean and soulful vocals playing wonderfully well against the uncleans which are at times used as a backing layer. There is enough guitar work for a trio of players and the master that is Dmitry Demyanenko shines throughout. So much variety in stylings but perfectly balanced. That being said, all members of the band shine in their individual instrumentation and what we get is a joy of a release [9/10]