8 April 2013
by Rob McAuslan
Ask a random selection of UK metal fans aged mid-20s and up which band they thought should have been massive at the turn of the century, and there’s a fair chance that Earthtone9 will be the answer you get. The Nottingham six-piece had a blend of accessible melody, progressive tendencies and sheet-metal fury that was rare at the time, and still proves hard to find now. Splitting in 2002, the band announced in 2010 that they’d be reforming to play a few shows…and then we even got a new EP a few months later…and now 11 years almost to the day since the release of their last EP, (finally!) a new Earthtone9 album has arrived.
Where their For Cause And Consequence EP stumbled a little around the inevitable weeds that grow during a long layoff, IV strides confidently – this is a band in the form they became so beloved for, no excuses necessary. The leadoff pairing of ‘March Of The Yeti’ and ‘Preacher’ is strong, classic Earthtone9 tribalistic drumming propelling RIFFS (yes capitals, as befits their hugeness) and Karl Middleton’s always-distinctive vocal schizophrenia leads the charge as if they’d never been away. These two tracks are really just an entrée though, a comfortably-familiar rallying call before the “new” Earthtone9 sound kicks in.
If all of IV had sounded like the opening tracks, that would have been just fine by me (and I suspect the majority of et9 fans would have felt the same) but Omega and arc’tan’gent showed us that there was a richer vein of melody below the aggression than they’d shown us before. IV taps said vein liberally, spraying the rest of the album with the kind of raw, catchy choruses that earlier material had only really skirted around. The stratospheric chorus in ‘Sea Of Blades’ pushes Middleton’s voice into places it’s never been, whilst the likes of ‘Sound Of The Engine Turning’, ‘Occam’s Razor’ and ‘Andersion’ contain harmonies and hooks both melancholic and defiantly joyous that fully justify Earthtone9’s return to action.
It’s not all brilliant – ‘Harsh Light’ is a bit standard though still very listenable, and there are a couple of vocal lines that feel a bit clumsy dotted around – but Earthtone9 and producer Romesh Dodangoda [Kids In Glass Houses, Funeral For A Friend] have turned out a record that so far surpasses the expectations set by the last EP that I can barely remove the expression of disbelief that involuntarily inhabits my face every time I play it. Pay attention, all other “long-lost” bands – this is how you make a comeback.
Sounds Like: Like the Earthtone9 of old, but way better
Standout Tracks: Sea Of Blades, Horizon’s End, Occam’s Razor