Entheos are a California-based four-piece whose style straddles the boundaries between progressive deathcore and technical death metal. Their second album, Dark Future, will be released by Spinefarm records on November 10, 2017.
We have covered Entheos’s journey from last year’s The Infinite Nothing album extensively because that was one of 2016’s best releases. While Dark Future has some good material on it, poor production lowers its overall quality, thereby making it an unworthy sequel to a stunning debut full-length album.
Entheos is a supergroup. Drummer Navene Koperweis used to play in Animals As Leaders, The Faceless (a lot of people have, mind you), and Animosity. Guitarist Travis LeVrier used to be in Scale The Summit (the note above about The Faceless applies here). Bassist Evan Brewer has released notable solo recordings and also used to be in The Faceless, Reflux, and other bands. Vocalist Chaney Crabb is the only member who does not carry a load of baggage into Entheos, but she is at least as accomplished in death growling as the other members are with their instruments, and that says a lot.
It would fit to get Dark Future’s only major problem out of the way first. Entheos seem to have wanted something futuristic and spacey, somewhat like the production aesthetic achieved by Fear Factory in the 90s. Instead, they made something with far too thin a guitar sound, made worse by having been pushed down in the mix. The album sounds as if equalized way too powerfully in the sub 200 Hz range (In lay terms, it sounds bass-y without having any “oomph”). Every instrument also has too much reverb; not enough to warrant Devin Townsend levels of endearment, but enough to sound too distant to be warm or compelling.
Listeners who can ignore these problems long enough to appreciate excellent musicianship and even better writing, however, will be in for a treat.
Dark Future begins with the companion songs “Black Static (I)” and “White Noise (II).” These songs establish the slower and more laid-back sound on this album. Crabb uses two different singing voices in these songs, with each voice accompanied by a different kind of guitar playing, adding a programmatic element to the performance. Percussive synthesizers add to what LeVrier and Brewer do with their strings half the time; the other half, they ring out over the riffs to add some tonality. “White Noise (II)” is the stronger of the opening tracks, having a suitable riff for headbanging.
“Melancholia” carries the percussiveness forward, while maintaining tonality with some expert guitar-playing and some truly beautiful melodic lines played on Evan Brewer’s bass.
Entheos shall be forgiven for beginning a song called “Pulse of a New Era” with synthesized tones that, well, pulse. It has enough changes in groove to keep a listener guessing, and some guitar playing that recalls Voivod in better times.
The ghost of Voivod past returns in “Sea of Symmetry,” along with some creative use of odd time signatures. This, and the constantly shifting from one riff to another in a way that still seems coherent, makes “Sea of Symmetry” one of Dark Future’s strongest tracks.
“Inverted Earth (I)” and “Sunshift (I)” might have been intended as companion tracks, having similar naming conventions. Both songs bring on the meshuggoss (a Yiddish word meaning “the state of being Meshuggah,” or crazy) with their polyrhythms and Thordendall-esque shimmering overtones.
Other than “Sea of Symmetry,” Dark Future has another high point in the form of “Suspended Animation.” Straightforward compared to the other songs on the album, and almost to a fault, “Sea of Symmetry” wins with a melody that sways over the song’s many intertwined grooves.
Penultimate track “The World Without Us” has everything great about Entheos, everything that better production would have allowed Dark Future to shine as it should: polyrhythms pulsing with an out of step riff that circles back to the “correct” count every few bars (cf. Meshuggah again), and Crabb’s vocals being somehow straightforward enough to be the voice of temporal sanity in it all.
Entheos end the album with “Resonance,” Dark Future’s most ambient track. Industrial sounds accompany Koperweis’s drumming. Spacey synthesizer tones take the lead, with some sinister robotic spoken vocals appearing before the track ends.
In spite of the production foibles, Entheos do not have a Dark Future. Their musicianship has few peers. The same should be said about their writing ability. The members of Entheos evidently know these things because they show just the right amount of confidence when they present their many talents with full vigor.
However, true artistic judgment is shown when a band reaches out for help from the outside. Virtuosity can lend itself to introspection, which in turn can lead to a clouded judgment vis-a-vis production values. The fifth set of ears of someone like Will Putney (The Acacia Strain, Oceano, Northlane, Every Time I Die, Reflections, et al) or Nolly (formerly of Periphery) would have made Dark Future the sophomore album it was meant to be.
In terms of future or space-themed progressive deathcore, Entheos have crafted a more effective album than Rings Of Saturn recently did in Ultu Ulla. In fact, the two albums almost mirror-image each other. The RoS album was structured on technique and ability with less of a focus on songwriting, but had excellent production values. Entheos, in contrast, made an album that has both strong technique and substance, but perhaps a poorer production.
A cue was missed. A fuse was blown. An incorrect step was taken. Unfortunate.
Notable Tracks: “Sea of Symmetry”; “Suspended Animation”
FFO: The Faceless, Reflux, Animals As Leaders, Rings Of Saturn, Voivod, Meshuggah