Etherna – Forgotten Beholder
Etherna – Forgotten Beholder (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
In what has by now become something of a trend in Italy, power metal act Etherna has experienced a reincarnation six years after its debut in a very different realm of sound. The underground Pisan power metal act put out a very solid, identifiably Italian-styled debut with 2008’s self-titled release, and has since recruited singer Andrea Racco (known to me for his work on Opening Scenery’s very good Mystic Alchemy) to front its new effort. The result is a big change in delivery which forsakes the double bass, high tenor, and symphonic approach of its predecessor in favor of a more aggressive, complex, and hard-nosed approach with a whole lot of roaring from new vocalist Racco.
While Etherna hinted around at this sound very slightly in 2008, Forgotten Beholder is a grimmer, punishing beast that pushes syncopation, more varied riffing, and Racco’s throaty vibrato to the fore. Unfortunately, I find this approach to be less memorable and less gripping, with a couple of noticeable exceptions. “Death”, for example, is a clear standout. A commanding chorus, rapid-paced riffs, driving drumwork, and some great screams make for a song that I’ll not soon forget, and one that’s made my go-to playlist for the year of 2014.
Much of the rest of the album is subject to criticism, however. In a genre that has seen an increasing number of bands migrate towards a more “modern” approach, it is extremely easy to get lost amidst the throng. Some solid solo guitar is provided, but keys have really faded further into the background to provide more room for vocals. I will say this if anyone hasn’t picked up on it yet: Racco is outstanding, and he elevates the appeal of this work to another level, but when he’s backed by somewhat faceless modern progressive power riffing, the effort becomes bland in spite of his commanding voice.
On the whole, Forgotten Beholder was worth a few solid listens, but ultimately failed to grab me short of “Death” and portions of other songs like “Thoughts” and “A Colour In The Rainbow”. Those who enjoy a slower, beefier pace, greater vocal focus upon a rough singer, and less blatant melody may enjoy this, but I think that bands like Lanfear, Signum Regis, and countrymen Opening Scenery and Vision Divine have a much better handle on the sort of work that Etherna is trying to accomplish. I know I sound like a broken record here, but while this is a good entry for Andrea Racco to expand his catalog, there’s really little else worth diving in for.
3.0 // 5