Released By: Scarlet Records
Release Date: March 23rd, 2018
Genre: Progressive Metal
Terrence Holler – Vocals
Eugene Simone – Lead Guitars
Rudj Ginanneschi – Rhythm Guitars
Alessio Consani – Bass
Raffahell Dridge – Drums
3. Deep Frost
4. Aberration of Nature
5. My Breath
6. The Silent Corner
7. As the Night Crawls In
8. Voices Calling
9. Staring At the Ceiling
10. Night Feelings
11. Hidden Friend
So far in 2018, a recurring theme has been bands who hadn’t quite managed to win me over in the past, finally managing to break through and impress me with their new releases. The trend continues with Italian prog band Eldritch. Granted, this is one case where I wasn’t terribly familiar with the band’s work, only hearing three of their ten previous releases, but while Tasting the Tears, in particular, had its moments, none of those three albums managed to consistently hold my attention the whole way through, and so I wasn’t exactly expecting a whole lot from their upcoming eleventh full-length release, Cracksleep. Somehow, though, were their three most recent albums had all failed, this one manages to pull through and provide a consistently entertaining release that I have played several times over the past week and enjoyed it every time.
Eldritch has always been on the darker side of the genre, and their music has always been quite heavy and atmospheric, but Cracksleep especially comes close to the likes of Evergrey at points, with the atmosphere constantly being an important part of the music, as even the heavier songs have some dark sounding riffs and keyboards that add a foreboding feeling to the music. The guitar tone especially reminds me of the Swedish band at times, though musically the album is more varied and has more power metal undertones than that band usually does. There’s quite a bit of variety to the songwriting, with a few speedy power metal influenced tracks, a couple of which have some very thrashy riffs, as well as the expected heavy mid-paced stompers, a few lighter, more atmospheric tracks, and a couple ballads. The faster and heavier tracks tend to be the most memorable, with the occasional flashy instrumental sections standing out and adding some extra energy and flare, but even the more atmospheric and slower tracks are quite nice, and this is the first album I’ve heard from the band that has kept me consistently entertained. It also happens to be a concept album, based around insomnia, which is quite the interesting and effective theme for this style of music, and I think the band pulled it off very well, both lyrically and with some of the sounds they used to evoke the feelings they’re going for.
One element of their music I’ve always enjoyed is Terrance Holler’s vocals. He has a very distinct and memorable voice, sounding very clear and rather airy, but he can provide a bit of extra power to fit well on the heavier tracks. On this album he really shines, sounding a bit frail in a way that fits the lyrics nicely, and he gives a very emotional and powerful performance that greatly enhances the tracks. There’s some occasional death growls used, most effectively on “Voices Calling”, where the band does a nice job of creating the old “voices in your head” feeling.
As with many bands, my biggest problem with Eldritch has long been their inconsistent songwriting quality. Surprisingly, though, Cracksleep is a consistently strong album throughout, with a few big standouts and no duds at all. The opening title track is a brief but very effective intro that opens with some nice piano and atmospheric keyboards, before eventually introducing a hauntingly beautiful main guitar melody that sets the tone for the album, and is actually a slightly slowed down version of a melody from the chorus of the next track, “Reset”. Speaking of which, “Reset” is an instant barn burner, and one of my favorites on the album, opening with some very dark sounding guitar riffs, before quickly picking up the pace and turning into a heavy, speeding track with strong power metal elements throughout. It’s definitely one of the faster and more immediately catchy tracks on the album, as well as having one of the catchiest choruses, but it still has a ton of atmosphere, especially from the background keys and slight symphonic elements, as well as that lead guitar melody I mentioned earlier. It’s an amazing track that really sets the tone for the rest of the album.
Despite being a very dark and at times melancholic album, there’s actually quite a few speedier tracks here, continuing with “Aberration of Nature”, another instant show stealer. This one is probably my absolute favorite on the album and is definitely the fastest and heaviest. It has some very thrashy riffs throughout, as well as the occasional use of death growls, and it’s a very in your face kind of track which speeds along during its epic, soaring chorus, while the atmospheric keys and crushing guitars are present throughout and help make it quite the special track. The instrumental section in the second half is absolutely crazy, and easily my favorite section on the entire album, while the rest of the song is also amazing. Another faster song is “Voices Calling”, which again makes very effective use of growls, as well as again having slight thrash elements during its rapid-fire verses. Its chorus is slower and brings out more of the atmospheric elements of the music, and all around it’s another excellent track. The final speedier track on the album is “Night Feeling”, another hard hitter, with a very nice chorus and another excellent instrumental section, while offering the usual mix of heavy guitar riffs and atmospheric keys.
On the slower but still heavy side of things, “Deep Frost” is an epic mid-paced track with crushing riffs during its verses, which build up to a calm and very melodic chorus, that again really brings out the dark feeling of the lyrics, and Terry gives a very emotional vocal performance throughout the track. Another heavier track is “Silent Corner”, a mid-paced track with some very crushing guitar riffs, that moves along at a decent pace and it has a very epic and melodic chorus, which gets very intense right at the end, in an awesome way. The track comes pretty close to djent territory at points, especially in the middle, but it’s a very nice track overall, which fits in nicely with the concept of the album, the guitar tone during the solo is absolutely gorgeous. In similar territory is “Staring At the Ceiling”, a rather slow-paced track with some pretty heavy verses and a very nice chorus. Its instrumental section is very heavy and is probably the closest the album comes to reminding me of Evergrey, especially during the beautiful guitar solo towards the end.
On the calmer side of things, lead single “As the Night Crawls In” is a very light and mellow track, entirely built around the atmosphere. It’s a slow building track with some haunting melodies, and subtle but very nice chorus, which serves as a nice indicator of the overall tone of the album. It’s a fairly subdued track, with brief bursts of heaviness and is quite good overall. Even softer than that is “My Breath”, the first of two ballads on the album. It’s a fairly calm, vocal-driven track with some nice melodies and a memorable vocal performance. There’s a great guitar solo in the second half, and overall it’s a very nice and atmospheric track. Closing out the album is one other ballad, “Hidden Friend”. This track is by far the softest on the album, with very simple and subdued guitar work being used to set the tone, and it makes very effective use of minimal sounds to create a thick atmosphere, while the vocals are very emotional and powerful once again. It’s quite the haunting track, which closes the album out nicely.
Overall, Cracksleep is the first time Eldritch has truly impressed me, with a very cohesive consistently engaging concept album that uses atmosphere very effectively, while having some heavier tracks, as well as occasional elements of power metal and thrash. The vocals and lyrics are obviously an important part of why the album connects with me, though it’s a very enjoyable album on the whole, and is definitely one I’d recommend to prog fans looking for something a bit darker and more atmospheric, while still having some great melodies and great riffs at times.
Written by: Travis Green