Once upon a time, there was a band called ETHS. This band did pretty much whatever the fuck they wanted, blending nu-metal with all sorts of influences. Did that mix work? Not really. The band were, somewhat rightfully, written off as another in the wave of post nu-metal hybrids that didn’t really hold water. However, it now appears that ETHS are back and that everything has changed. Nu-metal is no longer their mainstay and in its place, something much darker has seized center stage. Now, their latest album is called Ankaa, and it’s a brooding, massive piece of deathcore turned every other adjective from the dark spectrum of English. It has electronic breaks, oriental singing in Arabic, French nearly-spoken word, guttural growls, screams and whatever else you bloody well desire. This makes it a veritable monolith, eschewing cohesion for a narrative all of its own.
From the first notes of “Nefas”, the opening track, you can grasp the tonal approach. The guitar tone is chunky, wall-like and insanely straight-forward. It just crashes over anything; it’s not even a breakdown since the whole thing is one ignorant riff on top of hate-filled riff. It reminds you of the heavier moment of Gojira, a comparison that you would do well to bear in mind as we move forward. So far, business as usual. But, things are hardly as simple as that. The new vocalist, Rachel Aspe, has a unique timbre that puts other growlers to shame. Her intonations give the entire thing an excuse, a raison d’etre, pardon my French. Instead of going deep to mimic the guitars, she rises high on wings of derision and hate. Her screeches are both robust and convincing, losing none of their stuff for their higher range.
Furthermore, the endless aggression has a direction and a purpose. Just flip the switch over to “Nihil Sine Causa” and see for yourself; this album knows where it’s going. The same guitar parts are heard here but what’s this? A guest vocalist singing in Arabic, creating transitions and entrances into choruses that would put Orphaned Land to shame. Nothing however can prepare you for the bridge near the 3/4 mark that feeds into a dirty, sweat-drenched, electronic break dug from the depths of ecstasy-fueled raves. Nor are the growls ashamed to stick around during it, working with the clean parts perfectly. Everything works to create a space, a hall of dark, snickering things that can’t be categorized except as depraved. No genres live here; only unbridled aggression.
We’re only two tracks in and this album does not relent. Remember that Gojira reference? Well, head on over to “Nixi Dii” and keep an ear open for those guitar sweeps. You also have the fierce blast-beats and bass bends that scream Gojira and, if you’re not convinced for some reason by now, there’s also a deep chant straight from The Link. Oh, and while you’re there, check out 1:50. Suddenly, the music cuts off and you’re treated to an amazingly massive choir in French. And guess where it feeds back into? That’s right, a heavy as all hell riff over whispered vocals, growls and clean singing by both the female, lead vocalist and male backing vocals. Holy shit, we haven’t even listed 50% of the interesting moments on the album: the electronics/drum conversation on “Vae Victis”. The arena-rock ready lines of “HAR1”. The absolutely massive closer that is “Mintaka”.
Bottom line: have you lost faith in hybrid, cross-over bands that rely on deathcore and nu-metal? Yeah, that’s a genre, shut up. Well, prepare to feel the full brunt of what these mixes can do when they’re used properly. From the ashes of obscurity, as a footnote of history, ETHS have arisen to deliver one of the finest, most aggressive and yet well polished releases of the past few years. You want to mosh? Go mosh. You want to sway to a choir? Go sway to a choir. You want to feel like the world is against you and you’re the hero you’ve always wanted to be? You can do that as well. Just. Press. Play.