Under The Influence #5: Absalom on “Drift” by Erra!
Naming their band after the homonymous Akkadian God of War and Plague, Birmingham Alabama natives Erra released their third album “Drift” in 2016 via Sumerian Records. Produced by Nick Sampson, it marked the bands first album with former Texas in July vocalist J.T. Cavey and impressively received an 8.5/10 from Metal Injection. The Progressive Metalcore band are also described in places as being founders of a new wave of Ambient Melodic Progressive Metalcore bands, paving the way for the likes of Architects and After The Burial to mellow out while bridging the gap between some of the heavier bands and Periphery.
Stephen Brown from Absalom: “There are a lot of records that have influenced the writing of Absalom. I could talk about how in the wake of Tom Searle’s passing, “All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us” by Architects inspired me to come into my own as a songwriter. Or there’s a lot to be said on how the innovation of “Mesmer” by Northlane breathed fresh creativity into not only the EP’s music but also its release campaign. But in the end, it was “Drift” by Erra that had the most sustained impact on the process of taking Absalom from a concept into reality.
Now, this may not be immediately evident. After all, I discovered Erra after I’d written most of the EP, although it did cause me to revisit certain songs and tech things up a bit – the tapping lick in Solstice being an example of this. The impact “Drift” had was much more personal than it was musical, with the album becoming a soundtrack to my life as I went about starting up the band, giving me a much-needed stream of inspiration along the way. I expect any musician will vouch for me when I say that it’s a long process that can sometimes feel like a never-ending assault of obstacles and setbacks. The issues I faced within the project often coincided with personal issues outside of it, particularly as one of the biggest motivations for starting Absalom was to give me a constructive channel to build myself out of struggles with my mental health. It was one thing to pull my socks up and persevere through the process but after a while, it did start to take its toll on the joy and passion I had towards creating music.
“Drift” was small yet powerful the thing that kept reminding me why I was investing in what I was doing. The raw and authentic enthusiasm that can be heard throughout the record helped me remember what I was trying to build and that music in itself is something worth pursuing. The album has such an immersive sense of euphoria that it’s almost impossible for me not to feel inspired when I listen to it, which is a refreshing change when so much of metal can be hopeless and pessimistic. I love Erra’s earlier record “Augment”, but for me “Drift” was a stroke of magic, sustaining that riff-orientated technicality whilst applying it to a fresh context of summery vibes and dreamy ambience – it was about time we started having Metalcore summer anthems!
Perhaps what l love most about “Drift” and Erra as a whole is the authenticity in the songwriting. I think it’s very possible as a band to do everything perfectly – have slick music videos, flawless production and a trending image – but produce something that shows no personality and consequently, is very difficult to draw life from. Antithetically, I’ve found Erra to be this vibrant and almost over-the-top burst of passionate creativity through which you can connect with the humans behind the music. It’s not always perfect. “Luminesce” has way too much guitar tapping for its own good, Jesse doesn’t quite reach that high note in the title track’s chorus, “Orchid” is just extra – and yet, these are my three favourite songs from the record. Because at the end of the day, who cares? There’s so much talent on display in a record like “Drift” that if anything, the imperfections only give it more warmth and humanity.
I find “Drift” to be such a source of inspiration as it connects with a pure spirit of optimism. It’s a reminder to go for things with a wholehearted conviction, having a little grace when things fall short, rather than just sticking to a safe formula. This helps restores my spark for creativity, and I find it’s often not long before that transcends into a zest for life in general. “Drift” still has heavier tracks that keep it as an authentic Metalcore record that compliments the rest of Erra’s discography, but these songs fit seamlessly into an album that is ultimately positive and life-giving.