Progressive death metal outfit Entheos have had a productive three years, to say the least. 2015 saw their formation, shortly followed by the release of their debut EP Primal. 2016 saw the departure of founding guitarist Frank Costa and the introduction of their new guitarist, Malcolm Pugh. Frank had already recorded all of the rhythm guitars for the bands first full length album, so Malcolm came in and knocked out the lead guitars so that The Infinite Nothing could be unleashed upon the world. Only two months after the album’s release, the band announced the departure of Malcolm Pugh and in the same breath announced that former Scale the Summit guitarist Travis LeVrier would be taking his place in the band permanently. Now, in the latter half of 2017 we have received their second album, Dark Future, recorded in the early part of this year.
With each release being so close together, one has to wonder how much progress the band is actually making in developing their sound. However, you would likely only be wondering this if you were looking at the release windows by themselves and not the albums individually. Primal was an introduction to their largely riff and groove oriented sound, with some nice lead work on occasion, great vocals from Chaney Crabb and electronic elements that acted as an undercurrent to serve the music above them. The Infinite Nothing had these elements, but due to being a full length album, everything multiplied in strength and numbers. The riffs were plentiful, the guitar solos free-flowing, the electronic elements began to assert themselves to become more of an attraction while Chaney was becoming an even more capable vocalist. Dark Future continues their upward trend of improvement, taking Entheos to their next logical milestone on their rapid ascent: Making their best album to date.
From the moment “Black Static (I)” begins, there is a sense of foreboding. Scraping electronic noises bounce and swirl around clean guitars that sound ever so slightly off, with the drums joining the proceedings without fanfare, instead relegating themselves to the shroud that has been cast across the music so far. The electronics become more percussive, the shroud grows darker and then the drums signal an arrival as Chaney reveals herself. Initially, her distinct growl is distant in an attempt to blend in with the heavy darkness hanging in the air. She then rises to prominence as her screams become clear while the guitars continue riffing into the ether, assisted by flitting synthesizer blips that lift those riffs so that they can successfully maintain their journey outward. Their adherence to the ritual is beginning to pay off, as the music begins to elevate itself in tone and intensity.
As the atmosphere builds, a force rises and pushes the music through the darkness to the other side, summoning through song that which should not exist in their plane of existence. The music shifts into a breakdown as Chaney’s being is overtaken by a demon that speaks in a gruff, vocoder tongue. It allows Chaney’s voice in the distance to speak alongside it, strictly for the purposes of accenting its power and showing that it is not only being kind, but also merciful. The music takes another unexpected turn, allowing Chaney the opportunity to retake control and reign in the otherworldly presence which they have unleashed. She send it back to whence it came, or at least she thinks she has, but as “White Noise (II)” begins, it is evident that this is far from over.
The vocoder demon struggles to regain composure, shifting between existence and non-existence, ultimately bursting back through into the realm of the living. With it comes a speedy and melodic guitar section battling back the vocoder demons synthesized screams. Complementary drumming, chugging rhythm guitar and a furious bass attack all assist in the valiant assault. Chaney’s voice in the distance and above the ritual grounds are working in tandem now, barely allowing the vocoder demon a chance retaliate. This soon causes it to cry out in pain, repeating the fast and melodic guitar part we heard previously but this time consisting entirely of synthesizer screams. Entheos begin their final assault, pummeling the foolishly resurrected entity with what brought it here in the first place: chugging guitars, powerful drums and precise yet primal screams. The vocoder demon attempts to relent, but it finds that it cannot withstand the onslaught any longer and is sent back through the tear in reality the band have created.
This time, however, the tear is far too large to be closed. Entheos cannot fight the cosmic forces they have attempted to manipulate, and as the song closes out, they are sucked into the tear as reality ceases to exist, instead being replaced by electronic distortion. They are deconstructed molecule by molecule as they pass through the void, soundtracked by synthesizers that sound slightly off, much like the clean guitars that opened “Black Static (I).” The synthesizer rises and falls in pitch and position as time flows in both directions, creating a never ending loop that cannot survive for more than a fraction of a nanosecond before it implodes. The song closes as the void is absorbed by itself.
You’ll be spared any further descriptions and interpretations of Dark Future‘s music in this lengthy and imaginative style, which may or may not please you. What should definitely please you however, is knowing that it was concocted for the purpose of making a point. The point being that Entheos, in their three short years of existence in which two lineup changes have occurred and three bodies of work have been released, have managed to effectively translate their artistic vision as an entity into a recognizable, tonally cohesive, consistently quality product. If you’re scratching your head wondering how any of that statement relates to aforementioned imaginary scenario stretched out over four paragraphs, buckle in.
Prior to the album’s release, the email containing its promotional materials arrived with the following quote from Chaney: “To me, Dark Future is like our first real release. Travis coming into the band was the perfect match, and the album encompasses each individual band member. It’s us saying, ‘This is Entheos. This is who we are. Dark Future begins our journey’.” It’s easy to take promo quotes like this with a grain of salt because you figure that it’s a form of hyperbole to get someone to listen. Surely there are musicians who prefer their previous works to new material for various reasons, but if you’re trying to get someone to listen and talk about you, you’re not going to say “This one is just okay, honestly. Our hearts weren’t really in it this time around.” Cynical views aside, it was a quote that stuck out through every listen of the album.
As the replays grew, it became evident that you really can hear each member of the band come through, not just in individual sections, but also when they create something entirely new together. The electronic programming Navene Koperweis has liberally, but also tastefully peppered throughout each album track, sounds like it distinctly belongs to him or projects he’s been involved with. There are several sections where you can hear Evan Brewer‘s bass playing clear as a bell, and in those moments it sounds as if the sections could be from one of his solo albums. Travis’ guitar work is just as dazzling as it ever was when he was in Scale the Summit and at times maybe even more so. Chaney’s main vehicle for artistic self-expression is Entheos, so her legacy and progress are always visible when the music is being played.
When they all come together, they blend in a way that doesn’t feel like any one member holds more sway than another member. Everyone gets their chance to shine because it naturally comes through in the composition and playing styles these musicians are known for, but they ultimately operate as a tight-knit unit that knows how to move with one another as opposed to one member constantly pulling the others in a direction. With super groups, which is a category Entheos essentially falls under, it can be hard to keep a sense of consistency because there are multiple unique personalities in the room. Even when consistency is achieved, it can consistently lead to a product that is wet, soggy and just downright dull. Entheos avoids that by knowing how to work with one another to make a product that is stylistically varied, but not messy.
Now, if you look at this review, it’s not stylistically or tonally consistent all the way through. It opens with a few short, largely factual paragraphs talking about the band’s history thus far and some opinions about the improvement they’ve shown as they’ve released material. Then, to describe the first two songs, creative writing is used to talk about the music by pulling inspiration from the audio and visual representations of the band’s vision. Then, you have the section which we’re on now, where an attempt is made to connect and bring everything around to an end that will make the product seem like it is made up of sections that each have their own unique identity but are able to ultimately work together to convey a single, unifying concept.
Even as an individual, it can be tough and exhausting to tie together concepts and make various unique elements seem like they all belong in a single, running narrative or experience. This makes it even more impressive that Entheos can do it with four people who all have strong personalities in both sound and composition. The crazy part is that they’re not just doing it, they’re doing it in a short period of time with a line-up that has only just become what is likely to be the definitive and lasting incarnation of the group. In making their best album to date and showing everyone how cohesive and interesting a supergroup can be, Entheos have proven that though they created Dark Future, their future is nothing but bright.
Dark Future is available now via Spinefarm Records.