Etherius are for everyone who claims to love Dream Theater but whinges about James LaBrie. Instrumental music has grown in popularity since the rise of the tech-metal scene. Yet, rather than the dexterous whiddlings of Animals as Leaders or Polyphia , this New Jersey quartet throw back to the classic progressive metal bands of yore.

Their debut album, Chaos. Order. Renewal. strongly recalls the groovier and more melodic moments of mid-period Dream Theater or Symphony X, except with the song structures severely condensed. Chris Targia’s deep, bass slides also give it a bit of a heavier, tech-death edge—recalling the tonality of the more extreme genre, without ever setting foot in its direction. Yet, while most instrumental music of its ilk tends to get lost in its self-indugence, Etherius remain grounded by a strong underpinning groove, so that the band they most resemble is perhaps a less-flashy and melodramatic Nevermore.

More and more, in these turbulent times, I’ve been wanting metal music to reassure and relax me, rather than having my head beaten in by, and Etherius have become a constant go-to for when the going gets tough. It’s never abrasive, but always invigorating and there’s enough of a heavier edge for it to remain compelling throughout. Chaos. Order. Renewal.‘s only weakness is, that at twenty-three minutes, it can come across a bit slight. Yet again, progressive metal’s tendency to overstay its welcome is perhaps merely another off-putting elemement that Etherius have managed to mitigate, and one easily remedied by dipping back into their 2018 “EP” Thread of Life, which is just as impressive and almost as long.