I’m not sure how or why it happens, but as an avid music listener for quite some time now, I can say with certainty that the albums I end up enjoying the most always come around during the summertime. It feels like just yesterday I heard Thank You Scientist‘s debut for the first time last summer. Little did I know how invested I would eventually become in TYS. I even had the pleasure of reviewing their sophomore effort Stranger Heads Prevail. But here we are again, one year later, and my newest musical sensation Ethos have already begun their reign over my playlist. And once again, I have taken up the task of reviewing the Georgia-based group’s second LP, Shade and Soil.
Stylistically, Ethos play a brand of alternative metal similar to that of the aforementioned Thank You Scientist. Both bands display technical prowess and a near identical vocal style, but instead of featuring a playful horn section, Ethos separate themselves from the crowd by giving the classical piano a prominent role in the band’s music. Especially on songs on Shade and Soil like “Tragedy” and “Frozen Memory”, I feel as if the piano’s place is just as important as the rest of the instruments.
In comparison to the band’s debut release, Vessels, I would say with confidence that Ethos have taken a huge step forward with their songwriting ability. While Vessels contains some absolute gems like “Of Ridding the Parasites” and “Echoes,” the latter half of the album doesn’t really do much for me. Shade and Soil may be significantly longer (clocking in around 65 minutes), but quality music is present throughout much of its running time.
One of my favorite parts of the album is the three-part “The Archetype Suite.” The first part, “Atlas,” is basically a prelude with vocals and a string/piano section, and it sets the stage for two of the most epic songs on the album. The final two parts of the trilogy showcase some of Ethos‘ most impressive and melodic work to date. The classical instruments really bring the album to life here, and do a phenomenal job of building up to the climax of “Apotheosis,” where Austen Earp breaks out his harsh vocals before leading into the closing stretch of the album.
I always seem to save my objections for the end of a review, especially if I enjoy an album, because the last thing I want to do to kick off a review for an album I enjoy is a complaint. But if there is one thing I didn’t particularly like about Shade and Soil, it’s the two songs “Coup d’Etat” and “Evergreen.” I really think the album would be better off without them, as they sound like simply filler songs. The fantastic closer, “Blinded,” however, certainly makes up for these missteps, and then some. The song begins with a padded piano chord, and ends the album on a strong note with one of the smoothest and most melancholic choruses I have ever heard, giving the record a truly stunning finale.
It may have taken Ethos five years to craft this fine work of art, but the wait has proven to be well worth it. With Shade and Soil, the band joins the ever-growing list of groups who are pushing the envelope and keeping the ball of musical innovation rolling.
Notable Tracks: “Wood for the Fire”; “The Archetype Suite II: The Lonely King”; “Blinded”
FFO: Thank You Scientist, A Lot Like Birds, Karnivool