IV is earthtone9’s first album since their 2010 reunion – making it the bands first full-length in 13 years. However, there’s a big difference between performing old crowd favourites live and reuniting after so long to write music. Will earthtone9’s reunion peter out in a flurry of nostalgia and half-baked ideas? Happily, the answer to this question at least is a resounding “no!” IV continues earthtone9’s musical evolution from where they left off in the early 2000’s becoming in the process one of the strongest metal albums released this year.
The standout feature of IV is the ramping up of earthtone9’s melodic side. They’ve always been able to pen a huge chorus – just listen to ‘Tat Twam Asi’ and thankfully they’ve kept this particular skill intact. IV’s vocal hooks are hooks in the truest sense of the phrase, each one having the potential to latch onto the part of the brain that stores great melodies. But there’s heaps more going on in IV than just a few big choruses. A progressive tinge is showcased on several songs, from the wandering bass riff and floating vocal melodies of ‘Andersion’ to ten minute album finale ‘Occam’s Razor.’
Singer Karl Middleton’s gruff barks have been cut back dramatically in order for the melodic side of the band to shine through, and at great benefit to the songs. Middleton’s voice is earthtone9’s secret weapon on IV, effectively meshing with the meaty, and often ferocious riffs that are earthtone9’s trademark. The schizophrenic shifts between soaring melodies and enormous riffs in ‘Preacher’ or ‘God Cloud’ effectively demonstrating his importance to IV’s balance between gruff heaviness and melody.
IV isn’t quite perfect though – the mid-point in the album ‘Our Last Sunrise’ delves too far into the bands melodic side. It’s worth noting though, that the song’s melodies still maintain the album’s high standards marking it out more as a misguided attempt to provide a mid-album lull than a poor song. ‘Harsh Light’s’ dynamic grooves following straight on afterwards helps restore momentum meaning that ‘Sunrise’ becomes more a slight hiccup than the show-stopper it could have been in different hands.
What earthtone9 have achieved with IV is more than a strong return. Fusing the post-rock melodies from the ‘Omega’ EP with the scathing heaviness that did so much with nu-metal’s vacant template, IV is certainly not the stagnant by-the-book comeback album that some were inevitably expecting. It is instead a dynamic, brave and forward thinking effort by a group of songwriters that remain at full potential.