Sound — 8
Forming in 2008, Ever Forthright is an established progressive metal band from New York City. Their chugging riffs and brutal vocals, combined with their pedigree make them a band of formidable proportions in the progressive metal scene. The members, many of which, having gone to study music, bring a new jazzy approach to the genre that sets it apart as a mecca of talented and skilled musicians. The band is comprised of: Nick Llerandi - Guitar Billy Anderson - Guitar Chris Barretto- Vocals/Sax Jon Llerandi - Bass Jerad Lippi - Drums Kevin Theodore - Keys Right from the get go Ever Forthright has no intentions of fooling anybody about their desired sound. The album starts off in a direct approach reminiscent of the opening to "Catch 33" by Meshuggah with a great dissonant run (which is a common occurrence in this album) followed by an explosion of sound. The guitars drive the album and are characterized by a deep, throaty growl. The guitarists Nick Llerandi and Billy Anderson clearly don't lack any skill in their respective instruments often weaving in and out of intricate rhythmic parts and going into Meshugga-esque runs and arpeggios. Sometimes the staccato riffing loses it's flavor and makes passages seem self indulgent but it opens up room for Kevin Theodore (keys) and Chris Baretto (vocals) to shine. One of the often overlooked elements of this band are they keyboards. They add a different aesthetic and give the sound what the guitars don't: atmosphere. Often times I find keyboardists use flamboyant effects and synths to distract the listener, but these keys, although never added in a self indulgent manner, always seem to stick out. Particularly striking is the tremolo effect used on songs like "Lost in Our Escape," wherein the keys are played behind Baretto's vocals to create an interesting texture. I believe this to be the true basis of progressive music. I can’t stress enough that I really would have liked to hear more involvement from the keyboardist. Unfortunately in this type of music the bass is sometimes hard to distinguish from the baritone guitars. Thus, it is hard to comment on the bassists abilities. A better mix of the guitar tracks could have fixed this. The drummer is obviously very skilled with excellent technique. Unfortunately I didn't hear much going outside the box. He played very well, but within the confines of the genre and did exactly what was expected of him. He is able to maintain a very solid groove and utilize interesting and complicated techniques, but he rarely leaves the comfort box of the "groove." Overall, the rhythm section in this band does it's job well.
Lyrics — 7
One of the strongest elements in this album are the screams. While being deep, throaty, and absolutely brutal, the cleaner vocals interspersed throughout the album are implemented in a really great way that change atmosphere (to speak nothing of the melodies, which can be very memorable). A great example is the song "All Eyes on the Earth," where the main clean vocal line sits great with the ears, but not in an overtly poppy manner. One of the interesting things about this album is that there are scenarios when the band breaks down into really cool jazzy grooves or implement elements from different genres. A perfect example is the song "Infinitely Inward." Beginning at around the 5:30 mark there is a lovely female guest vocalist that signals a dynamic shift with some R&B followed by the arrangement and metal sound that is characteristic of this band. My only qualm is that it didn't come and surprise me earlier in the album. Another great example of Ever Forthright's versatility begins at around the 0:20 mark on the same song, wherein someone whom I can only assume is Chris Baretto starts rapping over a staccato rhythm part. The instrumentation coupled with dynamic shift from incorporation of a diverse set of genres definitely goes further than many other bands in the "progressive metal" genre.
Overall Impression — 7
I must admit that upon first listen I thought that the mix was too "in your face" and overwhelming. Upon further listens you begin to hear the intricacies that Ever Forthright tries to accent. The guitars are a very consistent force, and probably the sole culprit of what I felt was overwhelming, but this genre can sometimes have very specific characteristics in the mix. With a great mix of chugging guitars, brutal screams, implementation of different sounds, jazzy breaks, and soaring melodies its clear that this is a seminal record in the djent/progressive metal scene. It's great to see Chris Baretto rebound and be in a band where he can make use of his saxophone skills. Unfortunately, the album doesn't flow like other albums in the genre. Apart from individual songs, there aren't really any landmarks or changes in the sound throughout the record. This can make a cover to cover run a little bit of a trek. However, the jazzy breaks and softer interludes make the album a lot easier to digest in one sitting. In fact, I would go so far as to say, that this is one of, if not the most, impressive implementations of jazz I've ever heard on a metal record.