originally written by Chris McDonald
As the explosions of metalcore and deathcore can attest, the bridge that has for so long separated heavy metal and hardcore has essentially fallen in for good. Any true fan of either genre knows that each has been borrowing from the other’s bag of tricks for some time, but what many fail to realize is that there’s a lot more that can be accomplished from this union than adding breakdowns to Gothenburg or death metal riffs. French quintet Eryn Non Dae is a good example of this.
Musically, this band’s style is both recognizable and somewhat unexpected. Songs are structured around a mathy, chug-heavy post-hardcore framework with frequent reliance on odd time signatures and a stuttering lurch to the riffs. Obvious homage is paid to Meshuggah in the thunderous rhythms and complex drumwork, supplemented with Today Is The Day-like forays into discordant leads, but the crushing weight of the guitars and the elements of sparse meditative noise are strongly reminiscent of Neurosis (the intro to “Existence Asleep” is eerily similar to something you’d hear on Through Silver In Blood), and this is where things get interesting.
While the hardcore vocals and breakdown-centric riffs may sound typical of the Converge-school of oppressively complex hardcore, Eryn Non Dae inject a palatably bleak and barren atmosphere into their bludgeoning sound, with an invigorating mix of epic heaviness and busy, polyrhythmic freakouts. The bass playing maintains a titanic presence in the mix, almost assuming lead-instrument role, and its ominous tone is the key to the foreboding, apocalyptic mood of the riffage and vocals. Tempos sporadically jump to speedy territory, notably the brutal blast-off of “Through Dark Skies,” but the overall attack is so ferocious that the pace of the music is hardly even noticeable. What’s really impressive is that the intensity of this disc sounds like the result of the songwriting, and not the other way around; you’re not so much paying attention to all the individual details as marveling at the entire picture, and its compelling to say the least.
Eryn Non Dae come dangerously close to excellence throughout the duration of Hydra Lernaia, but some problematic compositional choices rear their ugly heads in a manner that can be hard to ignore. Many of the songs simply feel underwritten, with fairly straightforward chug-riffs exploited into overlong passages that lose their mammoth punch as they are further and further drawn out. Its not something you notice as much from track to track, but when taking in Hydra Lernaia in one sitting, the album feels more redundant than exhausting, and had more attention been paid to diversifying the core sound as opposed to adding in extraneous details, this could have been alleviated. The more vocal-centric segments also take away from the atmospheric promise of the backing instruments, especially the overly-dramatic spoken word parts (“Echoes of Distress”) and a couple of corny rhythmic tirades that hog the spotlight from the real meat of the songs (“The Decline and the Fall”). And considering the vocals are easily the weakest aspect of this band’s delivery, their overuse can be distracting, although it’s rarely a deal-breaker.
I’m very torn between loving this album’s innovative sound and cringing at some of the choices these guys have made in pacing it. As Metal Blade artists go these days, Eryn Non Dae exhibit a healthy does of confidence and flair in a relatively new style of extreme music that has some serious potential for growth. The band’s chops are well seasoned considering this is their debut full-length, and despite the fact that the album as a whole feels a bit undercooked in places, a little progression in songwriting ability could see these fellows churn out some impressively apocalyptic metal in the future. For the time being, Hydra Lernaia is a relentless and highly intriguing look at the potential of desolate post-metal meeting harsh and mathy hardcore, but it’s not yet an essential purchase at this stage in the game.